"Man, I don’t know what’s going on right now but the clinic is flooded with people suffering from plantar fasciitis. I am gonna blame increased sitting while working from home but we decided we needed to get some information into your hands – NOW!"
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Literally, plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a thickened part of the fascia found on the sole of your foot. It functions to help the bones in the foot interact with the ground so you can walk, run, and do all the things.
There are so many bones in the foot that have to all work correctly to help the foot move your body from one place to another. The plantar fascia helps to distribute the load across all the joints in the foot.
Now, you may be asking yourself, but what is fascia? Fascia is like the saran wrap of the body. We have fascia from the top of our head to the tip of our toes. When there is a specific area that is thicker with a specific function, we give that part of the fascia a special name.
Since the plantar fascia has a specific function to help all the joints of the foot to work appropriately, it gets a special name.
One key feature of all fascia is that it doesn’t have a ton of blood flow directly to it. This causes problems when the fascia gets irritated. Plus, the plantar fascia is all the way down in the foot. Further from the heart, blood flow is decreased anyway. Being far away from the heart and a structure that doesn’t have tons of blood flow can lead to difficulty in healing.
Add to that fact that we have to walk to get anywhere in life (literally!) and the plantar fascia can easily remain injured if something is not done to help it. Which we will get to but first…
How Can You Diagnose Plantar Fasciitis?
There are no medical tests to diagnose plantar fasciitis. Included here is the list of symptoms we look for to diagnose plantar fasciitis:
Pain in the bottom of the heel. This pain is usually increased in the morning and you feel it when you first get out of bed. After you “hobble” around for a few minutes pain will decrease. This pain will return after prolonged sitting.
Increased pain AFTER exercise. Most people don’t have plantar fascia pain once they get “warmed up” but you will have increased pain after you sit down and rest.
Pain will spread into the arch of the foot. Although plantar fascia pain starts at the heel, as the pain progresses it will travel all the way down the plantar fascia. Since this fascia covers the entire sole of the foot the pain can travel all the way along the foot.
Increased pain after prolonged standing. Again, the pain will usually go away while standing but you may find that your pain increases after periods of prolonged standing.
You may find that your heel is swollen as the symptoms progress.
Many people with plantar fascia symptoms report that they also have increased tension in the Achilles tendon. This tendon attaches the calf muscles to the back of the heel. The Achilles tendon attaches into the bottom of the heel right near the origination point of the Plantar Fascia. Therefore, if you have increased tension in the Achilles tendon this can put increased stress on the Plantar Fascia.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?
The truth is plantar fasciitis is caused by increased stress to the plantar fascia. What we find here at Physical Therapy for everyBODY is that people who suffer from plantar fasciitis have bones in their foot that are not moving correctly. This causes increased stress to the plantar fascia that becomes painful over time.
And what causes increased stress to the Plantar Fascia?
There are many issues that can cause increased stress to the plantar fascia including:
High arches or flat feet. Yep, either way you can have increased stress to the plantar fascia.
Wearing shoes that are not supportive. Yes, those flats that you love but you know don’t support your feet correctly? Those may be the cause of you plantar fasciitis.
Running or jumping can increase stress to the plantar fascia. Our bodies are uniquely designed to allow our feet to tolerate running and jumping. However, if your joints are not moving correctly the plantar fascia is the structure that will absorb that increased stress.
Working or exercising on a hard surface like concrete. If you are regularly walking or standing on hard surfaces then you want to ensure you are wearing proper shoes that support your plantar fascia.
Prolonged standing (again, on hard surfaces increases stress to the plantar fascia)
Pregnancy. What?! Yes, weight gain plus ligament relaxing causes increased stress to the plantar fascia. Your symptoms may resolve on their own after pregnancy but you may find that your feet have changed sizes (I personally gained half a size with each pregnancy which made my flat feet even worse!).
Obesity. Increased body mass increases the force through your feet and can cause your feet to “spread”. This increases stress to the plantar fascia.
Help me! What Can I Do To Treat Plantar Fasciitis?
My absolute favorite treatment for plantar fasciitis is very simple to do at home – Ice with self massage. Simply take a disposable water bottle and dump out (or drink!) two large sips of water. Put the cap back on and put the water bottle in the freezer. Placing the frozen water bottle on the floor, roll your foot along it to get icing and massage at the same time. It feels soooo good!
Stretch the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon. To stretch the plantar fascia, simply put your toes up on the wall while your foot is planted on the floor. This stretch should feel good and not painful. My favorite Achilles tendon stretch is the typical “Runners stretch” in a lunge type position. Make sure that your heel is on the ground. While you are there, bend that back knee as far as you can. This stretch focuses on the soleus and feels soooo good.
Orthotics are very helpful. I recommend that people start with an over the counter variety to see if this helps to decrease their symptoms. If this works, see an orthotist to get a pair of custom orthotics.
Hokas. These shoes are more padded in the heel which decreases stress to the plantar fascia.
Physical Therapy! We can help you restore normal movement into the foot bones which will decrease stress to the Plantar Fascia. You may benefit from tools we have to stimulate healing to the plantar fascia. You may need strengthening of the muscles of the foot and ankle. OR, you may need help getting your hips balanced and strong to decrease stress to the plantar fascia.
At Physical Therapy for everyBODY, we perform a specific evaluation to understand what is causing YOUR plantar fascia symptoms. Because, every body is different. What got you to this point is unique to you and your lifestyle. We take an individualistic, holistic approach to your plantar fascia symptoms to get to the root of your problem.
The truth is, to get the long term benefit you are seeking, you need to get to the root of YOUR specific problem. Why is there increased stress to your plantar fascia? We would enjoy joining you on your journey to understand your specific needs and how to help your body heal. If you would like to find out more about cost and availability then click here and we will contact you to hear more about your plantar fascia history and help you determine if working with us will eliminate your symptoms.
If you are interested in getting out of bed pain free in the morning, click here to learn about when you can get in for an evaluation to determine the root of your plantar fascia issues.