By Professional Physical Therapy
As the days get warmer and longer, it’s time to start thinking about getting back into your summer activities. Whether it’s hiking, running, walking on the beach, or playing beach volleyball, physical activity is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. However, if you suffer from plantar fasciitis, these activities can be painful and difficult. Plantar fasciitis is a common condition that causes pain in the bottom of the foot, particularly in the heel. Fortunately, physical therapy can help treat this condition and get you ready for a pain-free summer season.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is a condition that occurs when the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot, becomes inflamed or damaged. This can cause pain and discomfort in the heel and arch of the foot, especially when standing or walking. The foot pain is often described as a sharp, stabbing sensation that can be particularly severe in the morning or after periods of inactivity.
Causes of Plantar Fasciitis
The condition is common among runners, people who are overweight, and those who wear shoes with inadequate support. Plantar fasciitis can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
- Overuse: Participating in activities that place excessive stress on the feet, such as running or jumping, can cause the plantar fascia to become inflamed.
- Foot structure: Individuals with flat feet or high arches are more prone to developing plantar fasciitis because these conditions can cause the foot to roll inward or outward, putting extra strain on the plantar fascia.
- Tight muscles: Tight calf muscles or Achilles tendons can place additional stress on the plantar fascia, leading to inflammation and pain.
- Obesity: Excess weight can put additional stress on the feet, leading to the development of plantar fasciitis.
How can Physical Therapy Help?
Physical therapy is an effective treatment option for plantar fasciitis. The first step in physical therapy is a thorough evaluation by a physical therapist. During this evaluation, the physical therapist will assess your symptoms, medical history, and overall physical condition. They may also perform specific tests to evaluate your foot mechanics and range of motion.
Based on the results of this evaluation, the physical therapist will develop a personalized treatment plan to help relieve your pain and improve your mobility. The goal of physical therapy for plantar fasciitis is to reduce inflammation, improve foot mechanics, and strengthen the muscles and tissues in the foot.
Here are some of the ways physical therapy can help treat this condition:
- Stretching exercises: A physical therapist can teach you specific stretching exercises to help stretch the plantar fascia and calf muscles. These exercises can help reduce pain and improve flexibility in the foot.
- Manual therapy: A physical therapist can use manual therapy techniques, such as massage or joint mobilization, to help reduce pain and improve mobility in the foot.
- Footwear and Orthotics: A physical therapist can help you choose the right shoes. They can also recommend the use of orthotics, such as arch supports or custom-made shoe inserts, to help support the foot and reduce pressure on the plantar fascia.
- Taping: A physical therapist can use tape to help support the foot and reduce stress on the plantar fascia. This can help reduce pain and improve mobility.
- Strengthening exercises: A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help strengthen the muscles and tissues in the foot. This can help improve foot mechanics and reduce the risk of future injuries.
- Gait analysis: Your physical therapist can analyze your gait (the way you walk) to identify any abnormalities that may be contributing to your plantar fasciitis and develop a plan to address these issues.
In addition to these treatment options, a physical therapist can also provide education on body mechanics and activity modification to help prevent future injuries.
Additional Treatments for Plantar Fasciitis
In addition to physical therapy, there are other steps you can take to help manage your plantar fasciitis. These include:
- Rest: Resting the affected foot can help to reduce inflammation and promote healing.
- Ice: Applying ice to the affected area can help to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Weight loss: If you are overweight, losing weight can help to reduce the amount of stress on your feet, which can alleviate symptoms of plantar fasciitis.
- Activity modification: Your physical therapist may recommend modifying or avoiding certain activities that exacerbate your symptoms, such as high-impact sports or activities that require prolonged standing.
- Medications: Over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen and naproxen can be effective for reducing pain and inflammation associated with plantar fasciitis. However, it is important to follow the instructions on the label and consult with your doctor or physical therapist before taking any medications.
- Night Splints: Wearing a night splint can help stretch the plantar fascia while you sleep, reducing the pain and discomfort associated with the condition. Night splints hold the foot in a flexed position, keeping the plantar fascia stretched and preventing it from becoming tight overnight.
- Steroid Injections: In severe cases of plantar fasciitis, your doctor may recommend a steroid injection to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. However, this is typically only used as a last resort when other treatments have failed to provide relief.
Preventing Plantar Fasciitis
Prevention is always better than a cure, and there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing plantar fasciitis, including the following:
- Wear supportive shoes with adequate cushioning and stability.
- Gradually increase the intensity and duration of your physical activity to avoid overuse injuries.
- Maintain a healthy weight to reduce the strain on your feet.
- Stretch and exercise regularly to improve flexibility and strengthen the muscles in your feet and calves.
- Avoid walking barefoot or in shoes with inadequate support.
- Use orthotic inserts if necessary to provide additional support and cushioning.
Don’t let plantar fasciitis keep you from enjoying your summer activities. With the help of a physical therapist, a treatment plan can be developed that addresses your specific needs. If you’re experiencing foot pain, contact Professional Physical Therapy. Request an appointment at Professional and start your journey to a pain-free season.