Have you ever experienced a sharp pain in your heel for no apparent reason? One of the causes of heel pain is a condition called plantar fasciitis. It is caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia, the tissue connecting the heel bone to the toes. The plantar fascia serves as a ‘shock absorber’ for the arch of the foot.
The patient typically experiences a stabbing sensation in the foot, especially when getting out of bed in the morning. It is not unusual for the pain to subside with movement or stretching. The pain tends to reoccur after prolonged sitting, standing, or walking.
Causes include weight, age, activity, and even gender. Certain activities that place stress on the heel (running, dancing) also play a role. Women are also more prone then men, especially when pregnant.
Too much tension in the plantar fascia can cause small tears in the tissue. When left untreated, the damage worsens and surgery may be warranted. Physical therapy plays an important role to reduce pain and help avoid surgery.
Often, people who suffer from plantar fasciitis have tighter and weaker foot muscles. The physical therapist will conduct a detailed evaluation of the strength, flexibility and stability of the muscles and ligaments around your foot and ankle to determine the best course of action.
The right exercise program can strengthen the ankle and foot muscles, which reduces the strain on the plantar fascia. This helps break the cycle of pain and discomfort.
The physical therapist may also decide to combine exercises for plantar fasciitis with orthopedic shoe inserts. These are specially made inserts that are built to conform to the unique shape and arches of your feet. Pain medication (as prescribed by your physician), ice and rest are also helpful.
Surgery is an option but should be considered as the last resort.
Plantar fasciitis is best treated with a combination of exercise and lifestyle modification. As a weight bearing structure, your feet are under constant stress and strain every day. Healing can take several weeks (or months) and a physical therapist will work with the patient every step of the way. The best course of action is to work closely with a physical therapist and continue with the prescribed home treatment program.
As your physical therapists, we are committed to your health and wellness goals. If you know someone who is experiencing heel or foot pain, ask him or her to call us today. We look forward to hearing from you. Physical therapy is a step in the right direction.