Plantar fasciitis is an all too common condition that causes pain and discomfort on the underside of a person’s foot and heel. It occurs when the plantar fascia – a thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes – becomes inflamed or tears. Estimates suggest that two million Americans are bothered by plantar fasciitis every year, and 10 percent of Americans will deal with the condition at some point in their life.
We’re quite familiar with treating plantar fasciitis at OrthoRehab Specialists because physical therapy is considered the gold standard for treating the condition. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at what’s going on in your foot when plantar fasciitis develops, and how a physical therapist can help you put an end to your painful foot condition.
Plantar Fasciitis Causes and Symptoms
Plantar fasciitis tends to develop when the plantar fascia becomes overstressed or subjected to too much acute or cumulative pressure. Because of this, it tends to occur more frequently in athletes who regularly jump, cut and push off their feet with great force, but it’s not just a condition that affects athletes. Anyone who is on their feet for an extended period of time each day could be at risk for developing an inflamed plantar fascia. Construction workers, cashiers, waitresses and any other jobs that require long hours on your feet can increase your risk of plantar fasciitis.
The condition also tends to become more common as we get a little older and our feet have been subjected to more stress over the years. It’s most common in patients in their 40s and 50s or in those who are overweight and are putting more stress on their feet when standing or walking. Plantar fasciitis can also be caused if bone spurs develop in the heel region and irritate the thick band of tissue on the underside of the foot.
Symptoms of the condition include:
- Pain with activity or pressure on the feet
- Pain with the first steps each morning
- Arch tenderness or tightness
- Discomfort when climbing stairs
- Difficulty walking/inhibited gait
Diagnosing and Treating Plantar Fasciitis With Physical Therapy
You can head to your primary care physician or a foot specialist’s office if you believe you’re dealing with plantar fasciitis, but you may be able to save some time and money by heading straight to a physical therapist. Since the condition can oftentimes be diagnosed without imaging tests, a physical therapist can provide an evaluation by having you perform some exercises and by using some physical manipulation techniques. Applying gentle pressure, having the individual walk and stand, and foot flexion exercises can all help the physical therapist come to a diagnosis of plantar fasciitis or a related foot condition.
The good news is that if you are indeed diagnosed with plantar fasciitis by your physical therapist, you’re right where you need to be when it comes to treatment. Physical therapy is almost always ordered to help treat plantar fasciitis and strengthen the foot so that the condition doesn’t return. Your physical therapist will develop an in-clinic and at-home PT routine that will work to:
- Improve the flexibility of your ankle and plantar fascia
- Strengthen the plantar fascia without overloading it
- Improve blood flow and decrease inflammation
- Reduce pain and related symptoms
Aside from exercises and stretches that can help strengthen and stabilize the plantar fascia, your physical therapist may also discuss some complementary treatment options, like medications, footwear changes, dietary or lifestyle adjustments to help with weight management, orthotic inserts and activity modifications. Used in conjunction with a comprehensive physical therapy program, many people can put their plantar fasciitis behind them in a matter of weeks and get back to doing all the physical activities they love without foot pain.
So if you are dealing with pain and discomfort on the underside of your foot, consider giving the team at OrthoRehab Specialists a call and having the issue diagnosed and treated. For more information, contact our office today at (612) 339-2041.