What it is, how to prevent it, and how to relieve it.
Molly Radonich, LAT, ATC
Have you ever been for a walk after a period of inactivity, or gone for a long jog? Did you feel discomfort in the bottom of your foot that was painful when you stepped on it? If that discomfort lasts longer than a few days it might be the beginning of Plantar Fasciitis, “PLAN-ter fash-ee-EYE-tus”. It is important to treat it properly so it doesn’t become a chronic issue.
Plantar fasciitis is a condition in which the fascial tissue on the bottom of the foot is strained and inflamed. It causes severe pain on the bottom surface of the heel and on the inside of the foot. 1 in 10 people will experience plantar fasciitis at some point in their life. If treated properly, 80% of patients experience relief from pain.
Some risk factors for plantar fasciitis are as follows:
- Excess body weight
- Extreme amounts of running
- Foot and calf tightness
- Jobs which require a lot of standing or walking
- Improper footwear
- Decreased ankle flexion
- High arches
- Sedentary lifestyle
It is very important to treat your feet kindly as they help support much of our body weight. The plantar fascia provides support and assistance to many of the bones and muscles of the lower leg and can cause detrimental effects when it is not working properly.
The treatment of plantar fasciitis also includes preventing it from happening in the first place. Toe yoga is an exercise recommended to help strengthen the plantar fascia and intrinsic muscles of the foot that help with support.
Arch activation: Begin by placing your foot flat on the floor. While keeping your heel and toes on the floor, pull the middle of your foot up (just the inside of your foot), hold for two seconds and relax.
Big toe extension – Start with your foot flat on the floor, press your four smaller toes into the floor and lift your big toe up. This helps to activate the arch while performing normal foot functions.
Toe extensions – With your foot flat on the floor, press your big toe into the ground and lift your little toes up. Hold for three seconds and repeat 10 times
Toe spreads – With your foot flat on the floor, try to extend your pinky and all following toes out to the side making your toes as wide as possible.
Advanced Toe yoga- This is a combination of poses that will challenge your arch and intrinsic muscles as well as your brain! Start with your foot flat on the floor. Press your big toe and pinky toe into the ground and lift your middle toes up! Try to hold this position for three seconds. THIS IS HARD. Don’t worry if you can’t do this right away.
Performing these exercises once a day and repeating several times a week will help to strengthen your arches to provide the support you need for your activities.
If you are already feeling plantar fascia pain, there are some things you can do at home to help mitigate the symptoms and prevent it from getting worse.
It is important not to push past pain with Plantar Fasciitis. If your feet are hurting after work, don’t try to go for a walk to get exercise. It is important to give your feet time to heel. After activity, like a walk, or a long day at work, applying an ice cup can help decrease inflammation and relieve some of the pain.
- To perform an ice cup massage, place a Dixie cup full of water in the freezer overnight. Take the frozen cup out of the freezer and rip the top off the cup. Apply the ice to the bottom of your foot along the plantar fascia for about 5-7 minutes. Place a towel underneath your foot to collect melting water.
- Soft tissue mobilization can help break up adhesions and relieve tension in your plantar fascia. Find a ball. about the size of a baseball, and place it under your foot. Then roll your foot back on forth from toe to heel placing a comfortable amount of pressure on the ball. Perform this for about a minute or two.
Calf and Achilles stretching has been shown to reduce plantar fascia pain in most cases.
- To stretch your calf (gastrocnemius) place your toes against a wall or stair. Plant your heel on the ground and lean forward toward until you feel a good stretch, but no pain, in the back of your lower leg.
- The soleus is the other main muscle in your lower leg. To stretch the soleus, bend your knee (the one with your leg away from the wall) and hold.
A combination of those and help from a Physical therapist can help stop your plantar fascia pain. These are the things a PT can do to help you:
- Our Doctor of Physical Therapist is a certified Dry Needling specialist and uses this treatment often to help with Plantar Fasciitis. This treatment combined with manual and/or electric stimulation may enhance the quality of tendon healing. This treatment can help improve the structure, organization and strength of collagen fibers. Along with other therapeutic treatments, dry needling can be a useful adjunct in accelerating healing of ligamentous structures.
- Soft tissue mobilization with a variety of modalities, helps with myofascial release to decrease tissue tension in the plantar fascia.
- 830 Cold laser can be used to target the site of pain to help decrease inflammation, increase healing, and remodeling
Plantar fasciitis is a treatable condition and with the proper tools and treatment you can get back to doing activities you love, pain free.