Do you experience tired and achy feet? Sore muscles in the back of your legs? Pain on the bottom of your foot? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be experiencing plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciits is a painful condition in which the plantar fascia – a tough fibrous like tendon – is inflamed. It is common in older and middle-aged individuals. The plantar fascia functions in the foot to support the natural curve of your arch, and aids in shock absorption as we walk and stand. The plantar fascia kind of looks like a fan – it gets bigger and wider to cover your toes, but then gets more narrow to a single point that attaches to the inside of your heel.
When the tendon becomes irritated and inflamed, it can make your life difficult. It makes walking, running, and standing quite uncomfortable. One of the hallmark signs that you have this condition is pain in the heel when you take your first steps in the morning. When you are not on your feet as you sleep, your plantar fascia shrinks overnight. And then we you get up in the morning and start to weight-bear, it becomes stretched out immediately and this is what causes the pain. If left untreated, this condition can become persistent. The plantar fascia doesn’t have a very rich blood supply – so healing can take longer.
There are various causes to this condition. The mechanics of your foot can predispose you to experiencing plantar fasciits if you have flat feet (or low arches), high arches, or if you overpronate (your ankle turns excessively inward when you walk). Conditions like diabetes, that affect the blood flow to your foot may also predispose you to experiencing plantar fasciitis. Being overweight can also contribute to stress on the plantar fascia. Wearing poor or ill-fitting footwear, like heels, or shoes with minimal support can also predispose you to plantar fasciitis. Walking, standing, or running for long periods of time on hard surfaces can irritate the plantar fascia. Similarly, if you have weak and tight muscles in the back of your leg, this can also predispose you to plantar fascia pain.
Thankfully, there are various treatment options available to you if you are experiencing this problem. If the fascia is acutely inflamed, using ice can help decrease the inflammation. One idea is to fill a water bottle and freeze it, then using the ice in the bottle to roll and massage the bottom of the foot. Golf balls are also good for rolling on the bottom of the foot to help massage and stretch out the plantar fascia.
There is some research that shows that strengthening exercises and stretches for the muscles on the back of the leg are extremely useful.
Wearing comfortable footwear will also help take some of the stress off of the area. Some people might benefit from custom orthotics – which are insoles that help correct the mechanics of the feet, including giving arch support and controlling the overpronation.
Shockwave and laser therapy have been shown to help with healing of the plantar fascia and increase blood flow to the area to allow healing. Acupuncture might also be of benefit.
There are some braces and socks you can get that you wear at night to help prevent the fascia from shrinking. Some patients feel these work well, others find them uncomfortable to use.
If you think you might be experiencing plantar fasciits, it’s best to get it checked out from a professional who can diagnose the condition. There are many conditions that can cause foot pain, so it’s best to be sure you know what you are dealing with. Then you and your therapist can come up with a plan to help get your pain under control. Since plantar fasciitis is a condition that happens over time, it will also take time for healing to occur. Stick with the treatment plan and be patient with your recovery.
Dr. Matthew Serrick is a chiropractor in downtown Toronto who is the owner of Back In Balance Clinic, a multidisciplinary clinic. We offer a wide variety of treatments for many conditions, including plantar fasciitis. If you would like more information about our services or how we can help you, take a look at our website at www.backinbalanceclinic.com, call us at 416-660-9932, or book an appointment online.