Foot pain is a common complaint. In fact, nearly 80 percent of Americans will suffer foot pain at some point in their lives. For many who seek medical attention for their foot pain, the diagnosis is plantar fasciitis. More than 2 million people are estimated to suffer from this overuse condition.
Luckily, foot pain caused by plantar fasciitis is most often manageable and treatable.
What are the symptoms of plantar fasciitis?
Do you ever have a sharp pain in your heel or the arch of your foot first thing in the morning, as you take the first steps after getting out of bed? Or maybe when you step out of the car after a long ride? Or maybe after (but not during) an exercise session or physically demanding activity? That pain is due to your plantar fascia – the thick band of tissue connecting your heel to the ball of your foot – being inflamed.
The inflammation that causes plantar fasciitis can be due to repetitive motion or anything that puts an excessive amount of pressure on the arch of your foot. Think of sports-related activities that require a lot of running and jumping. Or consider if your job requires long periods standing or being on your feet, especially if you’re not wearing shoes that properly support your foot type, or you’re overweight.
Additionally, a sudden increase in activity levels can trigger plantar fasciitis, like if you’ve been sedentary for a long period and just decide to jump into a regular exercise routine or to add a run to your mornings. Or maybe you finally bought that stand-up desk and while you once sat all day at the computer, now you’re so excited that you stand all day.
It is estimated that plantar fasciitis affects about 10 percent of Americans at some point in their lives, with most being diagnosed after the age of 40.
While foot pain caused by plantar fasciitis can come and go without specific treatment, it’s best not to ignore your pain. Pain the body sending a signal that there’s something wrong.
How can I treat my plantar fasciitis at home?
Fortunately, there are some things you can do at home to help relieve the pain and discomfort associated with plantar fasciitis and hopefully keep the condition from getting worse.
- Decrease your distances when walking or running and try to avoid harder surfaces – try a trail instead of the road for your next adventure!
- If you’re playing basketball or volleyball and jumping a lot, consider mixing it up and cycling or swimming a couple days a week.
- Alternate between sitting and standing if you work at a desk during the day. Or if your job has you on your feet all day, put them up in the evening! Elevation can do wonders.
- Stretch the soles of your feet by gently pulling your big toe back toward your ankle and holding for 10 seconds at a time.
- Wrap a towel around the ball of your foot and, from a seated position with your heel to the floor, slowly pull your toes toward you, stretching the arch of your foot.
- Tight calves may also make you more susceptible to plantar fasciitis, so regular calf stretches are a must. Stand arm’s length from a wall, placing one foot forward and one behind you. Slowly and gently bend the front leg while keeping the heel on the ground and the back leg straight. Hold and then switch sides.
- A tennis or lacrosse ball can do wonders as a massaging tool. Roll the ball under the sole of your foot, applying weight as comfort allows. Try to avoid a lot of pressure directly on your heel bone. Rolling your foot over a frozen plastic water bottle can also work, with the added benefit of helping decrease pain and inflammation.
- Tight muscles further up your leg can also contribute to the pain and discomfort of plantar fasciitis, so massaging the entire foot, the calf, hamstring and even the glutes can be beneficial.
- Don’t take your shoes for granted. Make sure they offer good arch support and that they’re a good fit for your feet. Shoes don’t last forever either so be sure you replace them before the support and shock absorption is totally worn down.
- When standing for long periods of time, stand on a thick, padded mat and consider insoles or orthotic inserts in your shoes to evenly distribute the stress on your feet.
If your pain persists even after implementing these four tips for treating plantar fasciitis, a more individualized treatment plan from a physical therapist is likely needed.
A physical therapist can pinpoint the most likely triggers of your plantar fasciitis pain, then customize a treatment regimen that may include manual therapy, flexibility and strengthening exercises, footwear recommendations and/or custom shoe inserts, and the possible use of taping or splints to help maintain optimal ankle and toe positions. We’re on our feet a lot, so it’s important to take care of them and not simply push through the pain when something is wrong. Don’t wait, schedule a consult today! Direct Access means you don’t need a doctor’s referral to start physical therapy.
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