One out of ten people has woken up with a tight foot or stabbing pain that can threaten to ruin their day. For many others, it’s a frequent occurrence. Plantar fasciitis can happen for a variety of reasons and affects people of every gender and age. In most cases, it has a shock value reminding us of our body’s limits and the need to slow down on physical activities.
At any rate, the sooner you identify and squash the culprit behind the pain and inflammation in your plantar fascia, the greater your chances of preventing chronic heel pain that can linger for much longer.
Sometimes, a sore foot might just go away on its own with the body’s natural healing process, but early intervention is usually the best way to guarantee a fast recovery.
Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you treat plantar fasciitis with tailored physical therapy. With a well-trained physical therapist, you can figure out the best course of action to mitigate your pain and return to your normal self.
We’ll help you make sense of the whole process involved in a personalized physical therapy plan.
What is The Fastest Way to Cure Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is a condition that occurs when the plantar fascia, a band of tissue muscles supporting your foot, goes into overdrive. The plantar fascia is a thick band of connective tissues between the Achilles tendon and the ball of the foot.
A sturdy shock absorber, it does most of the heavy lifting during the day to keep you standing or moving, and engaging in various weight-bearing activities. However, it has its limits, and when overstretched, it gives rise to plantar fasciitis (or its equally notorious cousin, the heel spurs).
In the early stages, plantar fasciitis causes inflammation, swelling, and excruciating pain. But if the muscles continue to be stretched, they can tear up, causing more serious tissue damage.
Plantar fasciitis is most common among athletes who do a lot of running and jumping, as well as other professionals who spend most of the day on their feet, like nurses, police officers, and restaurant workers. It usually occurs when there’s a sudden uptick in physical activity, such as when dealing with emergencies or taking on new training programs, and after extended periods of weight-bearing activities.
Other risk factors include:
Age (from 40 years old)
Wearing shoes with inadequate arch support
Increased body weight (with a Body Mass Index surpassing 30)
Deteriorating calf muscle flexibility
Plantar Fasciitis Causes
Now, plantar fasciitis isn’t the solitary cause of a sore foot. But clear signs of it include:
Developing soft tissue in the foot overnight, and waking up in the morning to a sore heel
Being on your feet for much longer than usual
Extreme running and jumping recently being introduced to your workout sessions
Walking barefoot or wearing shoes with inadequate support for prolonged periods of time
Types of Plantar Fasciitis
Now, if any of these factors explain your heel pain and foot aches, then you might be looking at one of the two forms of plantar fasciitis: Acute plantar fasciitis (the initial stages of inflammation), or chronic plantar fasciitis episodes (or plantar fasciopathy), which are advanced stages where the muscles have sustained more severe damage.
If you’re wondering how to cure plantar fasciitis in one week, these factors can determine how quickly you recover. For instance, those wearing poorly supported shoes might recover faster compared with those with flat feet.
It’s imperative to report your plantar fasciitis symptoms to a health expert to ensure you nip it early enough and prevent the symptoms from worsening. A certified physical therapist can help you avoid unnecessary pain and frustration of dabbling with home remedies. They’ll also create and implement an evidence-based treatment plan and exercise program to relieve symptoms.
Does Physical Therapy Work for Plantar Fasciitis?
You should contact a physical therapist once you begin experiencing any symptoms of plantar fascia strain. A therapist with a track record of working with professional athletes and sports physical therapy will have even more expertise to counter your plantar heel pain.
You will need to provide as much detail as possible during the clinical evaluation. Your physical therapist will diagnose your condition based on your symptoms, health and activity history, medical history, and lifestyle choices to determine if it is indeed plantar fasciitis, and if so, what type.
The acute stage usually lasts six months or so and can be treated with manual therapy and an anti-inflammation treatment. If it reaches the chronic stage, a more complex treatment plan will be required, but your physical therapist will try everything in their power to keep you away from surgery.
A clinical evaluation will also help them rule out any other possible cause of your foot pain and create a tailored treatment plan for you.
What To Expect
During the diagnosis, your physical therapist can use the following physical tests:
Massaging and palpating the area around your plantar fascia – from your heels to the arch of your foot
Gently flex your ankle back and forth (dorsiflexion)
Gently push your toes up and down
Gait assessment (examining how your symptoms impact your walking posture)
Acute Plantar Fasciitis
Top on the agenda of your therapist’s plantar fasciitis physical therapy protocol will be mitigating pain, and the solutions recommended will depend on the stage of the condition. But your therapist will follow up closely on your case, staying on the lookout for any signs your plantar fasciitis is healing or worsening.
During the acute stage, your therapist can recommend:
Iontophoresis – a fancy name for an electronic method of delivering medications through the skin without injections
Using ice to reduce the pain and inflammation (cryotherapy)
Tapping your foot for short-term relief
A night splint to align your ankle, Achilles tendon, and toe properly while you sleep
Orthotics (shoe inserts) and supportive footwear to help support the arch, minimize pronation and reduce stress on the plantar fascia
Deep tissue plantar fasciitis massage for both short-term and long-term pain relief
Exercises to strengthen supporting muscles and lower leg muscles
Gait training to improve walking posture
These measures prove effective in most cases, negating the need for surgery. However, more severe cases may require a more complex plan.
Chronic Plantar Fasciitis
If the pain still persists after several months of standard treatment, your physical therapist might recommend:
Ultrasound scans for a deeper examination of scar tissues
Injections – carefully injecting a steroid medication into the site of the soft tissue for temporary relief and injecting your platelet-rich plasma to stimulate tissue healing
Extracorporeal shock wave therapy – using sound waves to relieve pain and promote healing
Ultrasonic tissue repair – using ultrasound imaging to probe and stimulate healing in damaged tissues
Surgery – as a last resort, plantar fascia surgery might be recommended
Can Plantar Fasciitis be Prevented?
For those who’ve conquered plantar fasciitis and health enthusiasts who don’t ever want a sore foot impeding their motion, a few prevention tips can help ensure it never rears its ugly head:
Avoid shoes with heels too high and poor arch support.
Once your shoes start wearing out and feeling a little clunky, you need to take them out of your wardrobe.
If your job requires prolonged standing for long hours, you could use some support from a thick mat or rail that you can rest a foot on.
Avoid increasing the intensity of your exercises. When trying out a new regime, warm up gently, then slowly ease into more intensive activities.
Make sure you stretch your calves, ankles, and other supportive muscles in your lower body before and after working out.
Always maintain a bodyweight within the healthy range for your body type.
Plantar fasciitis can strike at any moment if you aren’t cautious of the risk factors. Avoid standing for too long on your feet even if your profession demands it, stick to a healthy weight, get rid of poorly fitting shoes, and avoid switching to extreme running and jumping activities quickly.
If you’re currently grappling with symptoms of plantar fasciitis, early intervention is key. Don’t keep it to yourself and hope that the pain dies down on its own. Be proactive. Use ice and pain medication.
Reach out to a physical therapist for proper diagnosis and advice. Dig into stretching exercises and strengthening exercises. At Fit Club NY, we give you access to top-notch physical therapists who can help you squash plantar fasciitis and regain your freedom of movement. We help people manage all types of chronic and acute pains with personalized physical therapy.
Reach out today and let’s create an effective recovery plan for you!