Plantar fasciitis is the most common condition involving foot pain seen by healthcare professionals today. According to a study done in 2011, plantar fasciitis occurs in approximately 2 million Americans annually. Also, some researchers believe that plantar fasciitis accounts for 8% to 15% of foot complaints in nonathletic and athletic populations. These statistics show how common and prevalent plantar fasciitis is today.
Plantar fasciitis is a condition in which the plantar fascia, a band of tissue on the bottom of your foot, is either inflamed or degenerative. The plantar fascia is responsible for supporting the arch of the foot and when the plantar fascia is disrupted or inflamed, it can no longer do its job. When the plantar fascia does not do its job, the muscles around the plantar fascia must work harder and if they are working harder, those muscles may undergo changes so physical therapists may also address the tissues and muscles surrounding the plantar fascia itself.
Common signs and symptoms of plantar fasciitis include sharp pain under the heel as well as along the arch of your foot. Pain is typically at its worst first thing in the morning and many people explain that their worst pain is during their first step out of bed in the morning. Pain is typically felt first thing in the morning because of the position of the leg, ankle, and foot during sleep. When sleeping on your stomach your ankles are typically fully plantarflexed and while lying on your back, bedding may cause the feet to assume the same position. In addition to first step pain in the morning, one may have increased pain after resting or sitting for a long period of time due to the plantar fascia maintaining a static position.
Causes of plantar fasciitis include any repetitive activity that is constantly stretching and increasing the tension on the fascia. This repetitive activity can cause small tears in the fascia as well as making the fascia irritated and inflamed, which in turn causes pain. An example of a repetitive activity would be long distance running because of the constant and repetitive impact of the foot on the ground. In addition, any occupation that involves standing and walking most of the day can be a cause of plantar fasciitis. Improper footwear that does not support your foot and arch may also lead to plantar fasciitis so proper footwear is key, especially if you are on your feet for a majority of the day.
Physical Therapy is a great treatment option for plantar fasciitis. Physical therapists can diagnose plantar fasciitis through a thorough examination and evaluation as well as obtaining a very thorough history about your symptoms, when the pain began, when the pain is better, and when the pain is worse.
Physical therapists have many options when it comes to treating plantar fasciitis. Examples of some treatment techniques include ultrasound for deep heating and tissue healing, plantar fascia stretching to increase the extensibility of the fascia, calf muscle stretching to increase the extensibility of those muscles if they are tight and causing pain at the plantar fascia, trigger point release, and soft tissue mobilization to loosen up the tissues of the foot that may be causing increased stress on the plantar fascia. Recent research does show great success treating plantar fasciitis with lower extremity stretching in combination of trigger point release to reduce pain.
Physical therapists will also give you a home exercise program to continue progressing your recovery from the clinic to home. Therapists may give a home exercise program that involves lower extremity and plantar fascia specific stretches as well as teaching you to self-massage the plantar fascia to keep the tissue loosened up throughout the day. In addition, your physical therapist may also give you exercises to strengthen the muscle of the foot and ankle to help support your arch when the plantar fascia is not doing its job.
If the above treatment techniques do not resolve your issue completely, physical therapists are capable of prescribing and fabricating special foot orthoses to wear in your shoes to help support the arch of your foot since the plantar fascia is not able to at the time of injury. There are also braces that can be worn while you sleep to keep your foot and ankle in proper alignment as to avoid the positions that may cause pain or discomfort throughout the day.
Call Total Performance Physical Therapy to schedule your appointment today!