The dog days of summer are here! Longer hours of daylight and good weather lead people to be more active than any other time of the year. One of the more common causes of foot and heel pain is a condition called plantar fasciitis. It is caused by inflammation of the connective tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot, from your toes to your heel bone, called the plantar fascia. A heel spur may occur from the repetitive strain where the fascia pulls away from the heel bone causing a calcium deposit.
Plantar fasciitis typically causes sharp/stabbing pain with your 1st steps getting out of bed in the morning. It also can occur with your first steps after prolonged sitting. Once your foot “loosens up” the pain generally subsides. However, it frequently returns after long periods of standing, walking, or running.
Plantar fasciitis can be very common in runners and in individuals who stand/walk for prolonged periods of time throughout the day, especially on hard surfaces. People who go barefoot or wear shoes with poor support are at increased risk for developing plantar fasciitis. Obesity can also lead to increased stress and strain on your plantar fascia.
Most people who develop plantar fasciitis can be treated w/conservative methods and gain relief in less than a few weeks/months. Over the counter medications like naproxen and ibuprofen can help ease the pain/inflammation related to plantar fasciitis.
Physical therapy can also be of great use to improve flexibility and decrease symptoms. Instruction in exercises to stretch your achilles and plantar fascia help improve flexibility and reduce strain on your foot and ankle. Exercises to increase strength and stability will also reduce strain on the involved extremity.
Modalities such as ice, electric stimulation, and ultrasound may help to manage and reduce symptoms. A simple way to ice and stretch the plantar fascia at home is by rolling a frozen water bottle on the floor.This activity, performed for 5-10 minutes, not only serves to decrease inflammation in the fascia region, but helps stretch and manipulate the soft tissue to promote flexibility and healing.
Direct manual techniques performed by a physical therapist such as soft tissue mobilization, foam rolling and massage can also be of benefit to improve blood flow, promote healing and reduce pain.
Over the counter heel lifts may also help relieve pressure and pain. Some individuals may benefit from custom fit orthotics to decrease pressure and improve symptoms. In some cases, cortisone injections may be warranted to help relieve irritation.
Alternate therapies such as laser and shockwave therapy have not been shown to be routinely effective in reducing symptoms. Surgery is warranted in less than 5% of patients suffering from plantar fascia discomfort.
In summary, to help reduce discomfort and symptoms associated w/plantar fasciitis; 1) Wear supporting/cushioned shoes. 2) Stretch your Achilles and plantar fascia. 3) Use ice and anti-inflammatory meds to help relieve soreness.
See this short video for more tips:
If symptoms continue, consult your physician or therapist for further intervention to alleviate discomfort and irritation. Stay fit and enjoy the rest of your summer!