Plantar Fasciitis (or PF) is caused by the degeneration of the plantar fascia, a fibrous tissue running from the heel to the toes. The tissue begins to degenerate at a rate the body’s natural healing processes cannot keep up with, leading to pain and inflammation that can be severe. This condition can worsen over time if proper treatment is not sought out. The time required for treatment often depends on when plantar fasciitis starts and the severity of the pain, but healing time often varies between six to eighteen months.
Treatment options for Plantar Fasciitis
Medical professionals rarely prescribe a universal cure or treatment plan for plantar fasciitis because treatment is so often determined on an individual level. Fortunately, this means that quite a few treatment options exist. When beginning your treatment plan, you’ll likely want to do a bit of experimentation to determine which options are most effective for your pain and symptoms.
One of the leading irritants of PF is repetitive motion and strain, as this will only exacerbate any microtears and worsen the body’s ability to heal them. Resting one or both feet can allow the body to heal without any interruptions and without fighting additional tears caused by movement and strain. If a full-on rest period does not fit a person’s lifestyle, taking a break from certain activities is recommended instead.
A physical therapist will help strengthen muscles in the lower leg and relax major tendons like the Achilles. They will also work to strengthen the plantar fascia itself to make it more durable and less prone to tearing.
A physical therapist will likely prescribe both strengthening and stretching exercises to keep you strong and limber, which help drastically in reducing overall symptoms and curing the condition altogether.
There’s always the possibility that you may need custom orthotics to insert into your shoes. Your physiotherapist can evaluate your gait, posture and take the mold of your foot to be sent off and have the orthotics made.
Night splints help keep the foot in a relaxed position, with the plantar fascia comfortably loose. A night splint acts as a walking boot to gently hold the foot in a designated position–which helps with those first few painful steps in the morning.
Adjusting Your Shoes
Sometimes, all you need to rid yourself of PT is a new pair of shoes. This is especially true for those who wear running shoes, as their shock-absorbing capabilities deteriorate drastically after just one year. Insoles can also be added to correct high or low arches and bring some much-needed relief and support.
Medications like Ibuprofen work to relieve pain and inflammation, which can help with mobility and walking sensitivity. While this option isn’t great for long-term treatments, NSAIDs are highly effective for relieving moderate pain for a short period of time.
If pain is severe and relentless, a steroid shot may be needed to offer some relief. While being a good option for pain relief, steroid shots like corticosteroids do not work to heal the cause of the pain like other treatments can.
Iontophoresis (Shock Treatment)
Low voltage shocks are administered to further damage the plantar fascia. Though it does seem counterintuitive, this treatment encourages greater and faster healing within the plantar fascia. The damage from the shock treatment forces more blood to enter the tissue, speeding up healing time and regeneration.
As a final option, the plantar fascia is cut to relieve tension and pressure. Surgical intervention is often reserved as a last resort, but some severe cases may require it.
One of the most common indicators of plantar fasciitis is a shooting pain in the heel, generally at its worst during the first few steps in the morning. From there, the pain and discomfort may worsen or become subdued as the day goes on. Symptoms vary on an individual basis, but often certain activities, like running, will cause greater pain and stiffness that can worsen throughout the day.
Plantar fasciitis is caused by repeated weight-bearing activities, standing and walking for long periods of time, running, and having foot arches that are too high or too low. Athletes and runners are some of the most likely to experience this condition, but many active workers also contract it after long shifts with minimal time to rest their legs. Poor arch support, either caused by ill-fitting shoes or simply having high/low arches, can put a strain on the plantar fascia and lead to the microtears associated with plantar fasciitis.