Your phone bellows out its morning bugle call. You roll over to the side of the bed, toss the covers to the side and sit up. After a big stretch and an equally big yawn you reach over and fumble with the still blaring alarm, stopping it’s incessant howling.
You stand up, and there it is again–the bottom of your left (or right?) foot is absolutely throbbing as soon as you put weight on it.
We’re not talking about a little discomfort here.
But what can you do? Is it even that big of a deal?
After all, it started as just a small throb that went away after some fidgeting and stretching, why can’t you do the same now?
The answer? Because it stopped working. The pain just keeps getting worse, and the more you’re on your feet the harder it is to stay on your feet.
Plantar Fasciitis is miserable.
Sure, there are worse fates for your feet, but that doesn’t make the constant ache any more bearable.
Causes of Plantar Fasciitis
The Plantar Fascia is the thick band of tissue that connects the heel of your foot to the ball, stretching the entire length. It is responsible for stabilizing your foot’s natural arch. Without it, we couldn’t walk as all of the smaller bones found in our feet would hang loose, kind of like a beaded jump rope.
Affecting over 2 million Americans per year, plantar fasciitis pain is the result of the plantar fascia tearing or becoming inflamed.
Factors that increase the likelihood of you having plantar fasciitis include:
- Pronated (flat foot) posture
- Being overweight or obese
- Decreased calf muscle flexibility
- Sudden changes in the amount of stress on your feet, such as taking on a new job that requires much more standing, or jumping right into a running program that has you working significantly more than before.
- A sport, job or hobby that requires prolonged weight-bearing activity such as standing or running.
Plantar Fasciitis Treatments
For the worst case scenarios, treatment can include steroid injections, shockwave therapy and surgery. Each of these options comes with drawbacks such as the risk of permanently weakening the arch in your foot, significant bruising and even the chance of your plantar fascia rupturing.
More conservatively, and much more safely, physical therapy and even home treatment under a physical therapists’ instructions can relieve pain and restore mobility to the injured foot.
While not full-proof, home treatment can help take the edge off of the pain while you wait to see a professional. There are three main home treatment options that have been shown to produce results:
- Rest and Stretching
- If overuse is causing the pain, resting should be your first step to feeling better. Coupling this with daily stretching will help help the tissue heal without becoming too tight from being left slack.
- Wearing Appropriate Footwear
- Say goodbye to flat shoes, old boots and walking around home barefoot. All of these contribute to deforming the tissue of your plantar fascia, chronically stretching and irritating it.
- Ice Your Feet
- 15 minutes, 3 times a day, either hold an ice pack to your hurt foot or roll your foot over a frozen water bottle. Additionally, ice your feet for 5-15 minutes after any strenuous activity.
These will help lessen the load, and for some may be enough to end the pain and allow your foot to heal entirely. You shouldn’t assume this will be the case, though.
What Physical Therapy Can Do For You
First, we can establish if plantar fasciitis is the real culprit or not. If your pain is the result of a bone spur or Achilles Tendonitis, for example, we can properly diagnosis the issue and treat it accordingly.
If we do find that you have plantar fasciitis, there are a few steps we can take to address your specific needs. That includes:
- Coaching you through stretching exercises chosen to improve the flexibility of your ankle and the plantar fascia.
- Cold Laser Treatment to stimulate blood-flow to the damaged tissue, prompting your body to begin (or speed up) the healing process.
- Use a night splint to maintain correct ankle and toe position while sleeping, lessening pain and helping your foot to comfortably heal.
- Coaching/Educating you on how to choose shoes and/or shoe inserts that minimize foot pronation, reducing stress to the plantar fascia.
- Iontophoresis (a gentle way to deliver medication through the skin)
- Taping the foot, providing short term relief.
Home treatments may hold off the worst of things, but bone spurs and tendonitis won’t respond well to stretching if you look to take the easy way out right away. Reduce the risk of either exacerbating your injury or simply wasting time (however well-intentioned you are) and see a professional, receive an evaluation, and choose your next steps based off of a diagnosis, and not just a hunch.
If you’re in the Snohomish/King County area and want to schedule an evaluation yourself, call Lilly Physical Therapy at (425) 224-2476.