Plantar fasciitis is a very common foot condition that causes pain in the heel, across the sole of the foot and sometimes into the arch area of the foot. Foot pain is a normal part of life but if you are suffering it can be worrying and bring daily duties to a standstill. But it can be treated, and in most cases you can do this yourself at home or at work with the right advice.
The pain is caused by swelling of the plantar fascia which is a form of connective tissue that is very important to the biomechanics of the foot. This tissue connects the heel to the ball of the foot and supports the arch of the foot and takes considerable strain when standing, walking and running.
This condition can affect anyone but is more common in people over the age of 40. Overuse is the most common cause, as well as being overweight, or having altered biomechanics e.g. flat feet, high arches or tight calf muscles.
Plantar Fasciitis symptoms
Pain in the heel, across the sole of the foot (the part in contact with the ground) and possibly spreading to the arch of the foot. The pain is usually described as sharp, burning and aching and usually develops slowly and doesn’t go away. It is often at its worst when you first put weight through your foot, so more noticeable in the morning.
Pain can worsen as the day progresses or after long periods of standing and may feel as if the more you do the worse it becomes.
Why does it develop?
It can affect anyone but is more common over the age of 40. There are a number of theories as to why it develops, and includes factors such as overuse (prolonged standing or walking), being overweight and/or altered biomechanics. Occupation can also influence its development, ie completing a shift whereby you are stood for 8 hours.
How do I manage my Plantar Fasciitis?
As with many foot and ankle pains it can be treated yourself at home or work without having to see a Physiotherapist or Podiatrist.
Rest and modified activity – for most people keeping off your feet isn’t an option. For this reason alone the pain may take some time to fully resolve, but by trying to reduce activity levels in the first instance, and then gradually increasing them as the pain improves, will aid your recover. You should use your pain to monitor your progress, for instance if your pain is worse in the morning, reduces quickly after taking a few steps, and is absent for the remainder of the day you know you are on the road to recovery. If you have increased your activity and the pain then takes longer to decrease the next day you can be confident that you have over done it and make changes accordingly.
ICE (Cryo-therapy) and massage – it may be tender initially but try massaging the heel and arch area of the foot. This should become comfortable over time as the areas around the plantar fascia spasm less the tenderness will reduce. You can simply use your fingers to do this, or ask someone else, or even use something like a rolling pin or golf/tennis ball over the area.
Do this a couple of times a day for approx 5 minutes. Afterwards the heel may feel tender and now would be a good time to consider using ice on the area for 5 -10 minutes in order to get maximum affect. You ,may choose to combine the two by using a frozen water bottle.
Stretching – stretching the foot and ankle has also been proven to be effective in treating the condition. Stretching should not be painful and you should hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds. As you stretch the resistance will begin to ease as the tissues in the foot start to give. You should repeat the stretches approx 5 times and aim to repeat all stretches a couple of times a day at least. Example stretches can be seen below
Poor footwear – can be a contributing factor so it is important to consider the appropriateness and condition of your current footwear and make changes as necessary. Footwear should;
- Fit well
- Not excessively compress the feet
- Have a cushioned sole
- Be supportive
For more information please see our footwear information.
Insoles or Orthotics – these can be useful in aiding your recovery and can be purchased from a range of pharmacies and sport shops. Over the counter insoles will primarily aim to cushion your heel and support your arches. You may, in the first instance, choose to try some felt or similar material to see if additional support provides any relieve or increased comfort.
Remember if your symptoms continue without improvement or are getting worse as your GP to refer to PhysioHey and we will provide you with advice, reassurance that you’re doing the right thing, or invite you in to review the situation and help get you back on track. If you do need to attend for treatment you will still need to complete your exercises at home and it is this combined approach that will be key to resolving your foot pain.