Are you experiencing pain at the base of your foot or heel and do not know the reason why? You just may be suffering from plantar fasciitis. But what is plantar fasciitis and how can you treat it? You came to the right place! This post will provide you with answers to all of your questions and easy ways you can combat your pain.
What is plantar fasciitis?
The plantar fascia is a long fibrous connective tissue that originates from your heel and is inserted in the base of your toes. It is thinner at the base of your heel, getting thicker in the middle of the base of your foot.
You can think of plantar fascia as the rubber-like band that absorbs the weight and shocks of your everyday life. Your foot has almost and more than 30 bones respectively ligaments. With assistance from around 100 muscles, the plantar fascia plays a major role in supporting the arch of your feet.
As plantar fascia blends in with the Achilles tendon, you may even experience discomfort around it.
But what is plantar fasciitis?
Well, the word fasciitis stands for inflammation of the muscle. Simply put it is an inflammation of the fascia at the base of your foot.
This can lead to sharp, intense pain, uncomfortable ache, or simple tenderness. Your pain may be worse in the morning or after the long walk or standing duration. It really depends on the individual as we all are different in many aspects.
What we all have in common while suffering from plantar fasciitis is that our everyday life is greatly affected. Simple tasks become difficult and irritating, having negative effects not only on our physical but mental state as well.
Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis
More than two million people annually are treated for plantar fasciitis. It is possible that many more experience symptoms without getting any treatment. Recognizing the symptoms can be a first step towards treating inflammation in your plantar fascia.
The symptoms that you may experience are the following:
- You experience sharp or dull pain at the base of your feet.
- Inflamed and aching foot arch
- Movement starting pain, meaning pain in the morning or after prolonged sedentary periods
- Post exercise increase in pain
- Tight and tender Achilles tendon
- Continuous pain in discomfort over a few months
Causes of Plantar Fasciitis
All of the previously mentioned symptoms are very much treatable. It may be tempting to go straight to the part where you find out how to treat those symptoms.
I would suggest that you do not skip this part. Understanding what the possible cause for your plantar fasciitis is will help you with preventing it in the future.
Repetitive action of pushing off the ground
If you are an athlete or enjoy running you fall at risk for developing plantar fasciitis. This can be said even for individuals with demanding labor where standing or moving for a long period of time is a big part of the job. Plantar fascia is your shock and weight absorber. When you put it under stress continuously it is easy for it to get damaged and inflamed.
Flat or high foot arch
Having a flat or high arch means that your foot is stuck in either pronation or supination. When you pronate your foot rotates inwards and when you supinate it rotates outwards. An equal and smooth transition between those two motions is necessary for the good health of your feet.
Unfortunately when that does not occur it is common to experience issues with plantar fascia. This is because your plantar fascia is either constantly stretched out or compressed.
When it comes to footwear you should pay attention to what kind of shoes you buy. First and foremost choose a size that fits you. Not too small but not too big either. You do not want your to foot too be too cramped up or move inside your shoe too much while you’re walking.
Second, you want to get a shoe that gives some kind of support but not too much. We need our foot muscles and plantar fascia to be able to move and be active at the optimal level. A foot that gets too much or too little support will be a weak foot or a “worn out” foot.
For some individuals this may be hard to accept but being overweight puts enormous pressure on your feet. The excess weight will lead to your plantar fascia getting too stretched and worn out faster than usual.
What Is The Treatment?
Plantar fasciitis can be treated in different ways. In most cases, simple exercises, switching shoes, and inserts or arch supports will be enough. The exercises that you will be performing can be done with or without some tools. Combining both is the best option.
But first and foremost you need to rest. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of your plantar fascia. To get the inflammation down to tolerable levels the rest is the number one priority.
Getting some time off from your job or sport to focus on the necessary training is optimal but I understand how that is easier said than done. If you do not have that option, try to make small but effective changes in your life and at work. More frequent breaks, different work stances, having feet elevated from time to time, performing stretches often and gently, etc.
Check Your Footwear
The second option despite exercise is changing your shoes and insoles. In today’s society, we spend our days mostly in our shoes. You walking in comfortable, breathable, and fit-to-size shoes is necessary. But do not get shoes or insoles that are extremely supportive.
From a physiotherapist’s standpoint, the weaknesses in our body are the main cause of your pain. Feet that need an unnecessary amount of support are weak. This leads to you not combating your plantar fasciitis fully and not preventing it from happening again.
The support that can be beneficial for you is heel locks and foam inserts. After your symptoms subside you may want to get additional pair of shoes. A pair of shoes that will actually free up your feet and allow them to get stronger.
Now, what I believe and is as well scientifically proven the most beneficial way for treating and preventing plantar fasciitis is through excerise. There are few exercises and stretches that you should perform so that you can treat and ease your pain.
When it comes to strength exercises you can start doing simple heel raises. To start with it may be difficult to perform them standing. Start by doing heel raises at the seating position. You can make this exercise harder by adding weight to your thigh before transitioning to the standing variant. Even the usual heel raise exercise can be made harder by doing it at the stair and letting your heel hang.
To make your foot arch stronger you can perform exercises I call arch bridge. It is performed by trying to shorter the distance between your heel and the base of the toes. This will lead to slight elevation or supination of your arch.
Further strengthening your feet’s muscles can be done by toe towel scrunches. You stand with your bare feet on the towel and by curling your toes the towel gets scrunched.
If you have an elastic band at home you can as well work on the muscles surrounding your ankles. Performing inversion, eversion, or dorsal flexion with the band providing resistance from the opposite direction. Inversion means rotating your foot inwards, eversion outwards, and dorsal flexion bending your foot upwards.
Strengthening exercises can be performed 3 times by 10 repetitions to start with.
Stretching and massaging your plantar fascia is a great way to decrease the tension and inflammation that is accumulated. It can be quite painful directly stretching and massaging the plantar fascia, so start gently. Performing wall-facing calf stretch can be a great way to introduce stretching into the area. Keep in mind to have your knee straight and heel and the ground. A foot of the calf that you are trying to stretch should be further away from the wall. Push your hips and upper body towards the wall for increased stretch.
When you feel comfortable you can move on to the direct stretch of the plantar fascia. This can be done in a sitting position with the affected foot crossed over and resting on the bottom leg. Slowly start stretching your plantar fascia by bending your toes and ankle upwards, in a flexion.
Stretches can be held 30 seconds to 1 minute and performed several times daily.
You can even gently massage the bottom of your foot with your hands. The more optimal massaging option is for you to get a hard massage ball. Roll your foot over the ball and slowly increase the pressure. Avoid trying to add extra pressure on the trigger point in the beginning. This may lead to an increase in pain and inflammation.