Physical Therapy for Foot Pain

Do your feet hurt? If so, you’re not alone as about 77 percent of Americans have dealt with foot pain at some point in their lives, according to an American Podiatric Medical Association survey. Having a foot disorder can affect your productivity, besides rob you of enjoying your life. Here are three of the most common types of foot disorders and their symptoms, along with how physical therapy can help your aching feet.

Brief Anatomy of the Foot  

First, it helps to understand the anatomy of the human foot, which is one of your body’s most complex structures. Each foot consists of many moving components, including 26 bones and 33 joints, in addition to over 100 tendons, ligaments, and muscles that work together for giving your body balance, support, and mobility.

The foot bones are grouped into three categories, which include the hindfoot, the midfoot, and the forefoot. Moreover, each foot has more than 20 muscles, which include the intrinsic and extrinsic muscles.


3 Common Causes of Foot Pain 

Plantar fasciitis —This is the most common reason for heel pain. It is a foot disorder characterized by a stabbing pain that usually happens when getting out of bed. But after getting up and moving around for a while, the pain usually decreases although it can come back after prolonged standing or getting out of a chair. This condition occurs when the plantar fascia becomes inflamed.

Bunions and bone spurs are foot problems that can cause considerable pain both internally as well as externally. They rub against other internal bones, nerves, and muscles underneath the skin. Furthermore, bunions and bone spurs can cause external pain when wearing your normal shoes because they can change the shape of your foot.

Tarsal tunnel syndrome (TTS) is a foot condition causing pain, numbness, and tingling in the foot. This painful foot problem is generally worse at night or after standing or running for a long period of time. It’s the result of repetitive pressure that leads to damaging the posterior tibial nerve. The tibial nerve, which is near the ankle, branches off your sciatic nerve and runs through a narrow passageway known as the tarsal tunnel, found inside the ankle.

Achilles tendinitis (tendonitis) causes inflammation and pain in the backside of a heel when walking or running. You may have additional symptoms, including tight calf muscles and a restricted range of motion when flexing your foot. Ankle stiffness can also be a symptom. What’s more, it can cause excessive warmness on the skin of your heel when touched. It often occurs in middle-aged adults engaged in sports, such as running, basketball, and tennis. Increasing the intensity or duration of an activity can result in this foot disorder.

How Physical Therapy Can Help 

One of the best ways to treat foot pain so that you return to your normal activities is by physical therapy. Physical Therapists (PTs), who are specialists in musculoskeletal systems and mobility, provide a specialized evaluation of your foot problem.

  • PTs set personalized goals for their patient—Goal setting is extremely important in being successful in a rehab program. Physical therapists set goals that are both attainable and realistic that help patients not only move better but also feel better.
  • They create a customized exercise prescription.
  • Gentle foot stretches are used for alleviating discomfort and pain caused by the mentioned foot disorders. For example, they show patients how to do stretches, such as foot stretches (pro stretch), heel off and step stretch. Step stretch is an exercise for strengthening muscles in the sole of a foot as well as helping you with balance when you walk.
  • Physical therapists use certain modalities for relieving foot pain, such as applying an ice massage. This is generally considered to be the main treatment for plantar fasciitis because of the foot disorder’s analgesic effects.
  • Home exercise programs—After demonstrating specific exercises, PTs set up a home exercise program for each patient. They give them printout copies of the exercises that they can do, regularly, at home.
  • Personalized education on injury and further prevention methods—PTs instruct their patients on how they can modify their activities. They also educate them on the importance of wearing the right footwear.

Considerations and Warnings 

  • Sometimes, PTs recommend that people with plantar fasciitis wear a brace when sleeping so that the foot is kept in a stretched position.
  • Stretching exercise is often needed for losing joint capsules and injured ligaments or tendons that may have become “frozen”.


Don’t continue to suffer from aching feet. Contact Cawley PT at 570-208-2787 or email