If you’ve ever had a strange pain in your foot, chances are you’ve had a brush with a condition called plantar fasciitis. And don’t worry, it’s no cause for alarm, although more severe cases can result in nastier chronic symptoms. Those are the ones you want to avoid.
What is plantar fasciitis exactly?
Plantar fasciitis is a condition that affects the inner arch of the foot and heel. It’s caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia, which is an important ligament connecting the heel bone with the toes. The ligament itself has a lot of responsibility in keeping your foot cushioned and balanced. When inflammation occurs due to overstretching or overloading, you’ll notice a mixture of dull and sharp pain emanating from the foot arch region and heel.
The pain is particularly bad:
- In the mornings when you first wake up and take your first few steps.
- After prolonged periods of standing, sitting, or running
- After intense activity that puts pressure on your feet.
Plantar fasciitis treatment – the most effective ways
Treatment for plantar fasciitis will depend on the severity of symptoms and also the kinds of symptoms you’re having. With that in mind, here are some basic treatment options that cover a range of different severity levels.
Yes, it seems obvious, but many people aren’t in a position to stop their busy lives. When it comes to preventing more severe symptoms down the track, giving your feet some time in the air is exactly what they need. Try to limit activity to the bare minimum and stay off your feet as much as possible. Even a reduction of 20% can make a difference.
Stretching and strengthening
Stretching out your toes and heel regularly can greatly reduce symptoms and are essential to recovering from plantar fasciitis. There is a myriad of stretches that will target this region including:
- Stair-stretch – stand with the balls of your feet on the edge of a stair (taking care to stabilise yourself by holding on to the rail) and gently allow your body weight to stretch out your foot.
- Calf stretch – face a wall and place your hands on it. Take a step back with one leg and stretch out your calf. This will help relax your lower leg and also stretch out your plantar fascia.
- Towel-stretch – sit on the ground, wrap a towel around your foot arch and pull back to stretch your foot muscles.
Get the right shoes
This can make all the difference. Shoes that are too small and tight-fitting or too old and ‘lumpy’ can worsen symptoms and in some cases can actually contribute to symptoms developing in the first place. Next time you buy shoes – lookout for a well-cushioned middle sole and plenty of support overall. Also, check your shoes for wear and tear – this can also lead to symptoms if you’re not careful.
Arch supports and taping
If you’ve got naturally low feet arches, you might be more at risk of developing symptoms. That’s because the foot has less ability to cushion the impacts from walking and running. There are many kinds of over the counter arch supports that can assist with minimising symptoms. Arch taping is also used by physiotherapists to provide better support to the foot. If you’re not sure if this is right for you, seek professional advice before wearing taping or arch supports for prolonged periods.
Plantar fasciitis treatment can be done in your sleep using a night splint. These splints are used to keep the ankle and foot in a position that provides support so the foot doesn’t get jarred or slip into a position that can worsen symptoms. Night splints are particularly effective if you’re suffering from chronic symptoms.
Anti-inflammatories and ice
If you’re suffering from acute symptoms and need instant pain relief, it’s a good idea to rest and apply ice to the affected area. Applying ice by means of an ice pack, ice bath or cold compress are all worth a shot at reducing inflammation of the plantar fascia. Combining an ice bath with a stretching routine is often even more effective. If your symptoms are becoming serious – your physiotherapist may send you back to your doctor for a cortisone injection or to supply pain relief medications. There are other forms of injections which can also be trialled before surgery.
Although it is uncommon, and rare to be in a position of needing surgery from plantar fasciitis, if all other treatments fail, it is an option. The success rate for this kind of surgery is moderate and may be effective when conservative management fails. Expect a 6-10 week recovery time.
When it comes to plantar fasciitis treatment, there is no tool more effective than physiotherapy. That’s because it effectively combines all available non-invasive treatment options and bundles them into an easy to manage recovery plan. Getting professional assistance from a qualified physiotherapist will be the most comprehensive strategy for saying goodbye to the pain.