“It must be time for new shoes,” you shrug as you notice a dull ache in your heel. You head to the mall, grab a new pair, and feel better as the day goes on.
But then you wake up the next morning with heel pain and stiffness again, and then the next, and the next…
Eventually, the pain and stiffness are so bad that you can’t do some of your normal activities and have to stop your weekly walks and runs.
You have a classic case of plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis is hard to spot in the early stages if you haven’t heard of it before. It typically comes on gradually, feeling worse in the morning and a little bit better throughout the day.
Plantar fasciitis? What the heck is that?…
Just like you, a lot of people haven’t heard of plantar fasciitis before. It’s usually just referred to as “heel pain.” However, it can easily get worse and impact your daily activities if left untreated.
Once you learn more about this condition, you’ll find out how easy (and how important) it is to properly treat.
That’s why our expert physical therapy team at Back in Motion Sport & Spine Foot Physical Therapy Fort Myers is here to explain what plantar fasciitis is, what the symptoms are, what causes it, how to treat it, and when to see a specialist.
Plantar Fasciitis…What’s That?
If you have heel pain that is at its worse right after a long period of rest and at its best after light activity, chances are, you have plantar fasciitis.
Over two million Americans have plantar fasciitis, a condition in which your plantar fascia (the thick band of tissue that connects your heel bone to your toes) is inflamed.
This inflammation causes heel pain.
The heel pain tends to gradually worsen without treatment until it prevents you from performing your daily activities pain-free.
Without the right treatment, your pain won’t just feel worse – it can also develop into a more serious injury such as:
- A Heel Spur: a bony overgrowth that develops on the heel and causes stabbing pain
- Plantar Fibromatosis: abnormal tissue (nodule) development that makes on-foot activities, such as walking, very painful
- A Plantar Rupture: a rupture of the plantar fascia, which warrants immediate medical attention. Not treating your plantar fasciitis and performing high-impact activities (like running or jumping) or standing for long periods of time in poor footwear can lead to a plantar rupture.
Seeing a foot specialist such as a physical therapist is the easiest way to get a proper diagnosis for plantar fasciitis. However, if you catch it early enough, you can treat this condition at home.
What are the Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?
The most distinguishable symptom of plantar fasciitis is heel pain and stiffness that feels worse after long periods of inactivity (such as right after waking) and better with light exercise.
Other symptoms include:
- A shooting pain that is most noticeable when you stand up
- Swelling around your heel
- Pain across the bottom of your foot (from your heel to your toes) that occurs when you extend your toes
Plantar fasciitis can quickly turn into a chronic condition. We therefore recommend treating this condition at the first signs of heel pain and stiffness.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?
You now know that plantar fasciitis results from an inflamed fascia…but what causes that inflammation?
The inflammation is caused by stretching and tears that occur with overtime wear-and-tear of the plantar fascia.
Walking or standing for long periods of time, running, and high-impact on-foot activities like jumping can speed up the wear and tear if you do not regularly perform foot strengthening exercises.
Some of the most common “root causes” of plantar fasciitis include:
- Performing a sport that involves high-impact movements such as jumping, hurdling, dancing, or long-distance hiking/walking/running
- Poor or worn out footwear
- Weak foot muscles
- Tight foot muscles
- High or flat arches
- Being overweight
- Moving or running with an abnormal gait (such as overpronation or under pronation)
One of the simplest ways to prevent plantar fasciitis is to buy high-quality footwear. If you play a sport, get new sneakers after every 300-500 miles of use. Avoid spending long periods of time in unsupportive footwear such as flip-flops and high heels.
Identifying the root cause of your plantar fasciitis it key to treating it correctly.
If you’re unsure what’s causing your foot pain, our foot physical therapists at Back in Motion Sport & Spine Physical Therapy typically find the cause in less than 20 minutes!
What’s the Best Way to Treat Plantar Fasciitis?
The best way to treat plantar fasciitis is to see a Doctor of Physical Therapy who specializes in plantar fasciitis treatment.
But if you just started noticing your heel pain, a home treatment might work well for a mild case caught early enough.
So, if your heel pain is mild and began recently, make an appointment with a Doctor of Physical Therapy (just in case you need it later), and try these home treatments in the meantime:
If your plantar fasciitis is caused by high-impact exercises or being overweight, doing low-impact exercises will maintain (or increase) your fitness level as you recover.
Some of the best low-impact exercises for plantar fasciitis include swimming, cycling, and rowing. Couple these cardio exercises with strength training to speed up your healing process while staying fit.
Can you remember the last time you bought shoes/sneakers? If the answer is no, it’s time to do your feet a favor and buy new footwear.
Investing in supportive footwear can actually save you money.
Plantar fasciitis is just one of many conditions that can be caused by poor footwear. When you spend a bit of money on great footwear, you might just be saving tons of money on medical bills.
There are many locally owned and online footwear stores that specialize in shoes that can prevent and help treat plantar fasciitis.
Your best bet is to find a local shop that specializes in healthy footwear or a local running store. The employees at these stores are usually well-trained to assess your foot mechanics and gait (the way you move on foot) in order to recommend the best footwear for you.
In addition to high quality footwear, a night splint is one of the best investments you’ll make if you have plantar fasciitis.
Your feet naturally point downward when you sleep, which shortens your plantar fascia during the night. This tendency to point the toes downward while sleeping is one of the main reasons why your heels are most painful just after waking.
A night splint is like a soft boot you wear while sleeping. It prevents your toes from pointing downward while you sleep.
Many night splints start at around 20 dollars and can save you from the pain and stiffness you feel in the morning.
The Morning Alphabet
Each morning, before you take those first steps out of bed, do the alphabet with your toes.
What we mean is, move your toes in the shape of each letter of the alphabet, from A-Z.
Doing this “morning alphabet” exercise will strengthen and warm up your plantar fascia.
Weak muscles in the feet are one of the biggest reasons why so many people get plantar fasciitis.
This exercise will treat your plantar fasciitis by strengthening the area and getting rid of some stiffness before you get up.
Frozen Golf Ball Massage
When used in combination with strengthening exercises, a frozen golf ball massage will help you get better, faster.
After freezing a golf ball, roll your foot over it for thirty seconds (moving your foot up and down, clockwise, and counterclockwise).
Do this massage a few times each day, gradually increasing the length of time you massage for and how many times you massage.
As long as you don’t massage for too long, too soon, this frozen golf ball massage can reduce the inflammation in your plantar fascia.
When to See a Plantar Fasciitis Specialist
Home treatment for plantar fasciitis isn’t always effective, especially if your plantar fasciitis has bothered you for a while, is severe, or if you don’t know what’s causing it.
If you do not feel better within a week of home treatment, or if your plantar fasciitis went away and came back, it’s time to see a specialist.
Waiting longer can cause a lot of damage, which can cause a lot of medical bills.
The best type of specialist to see for plantar fasciitis is a Doctor of Physical Therapy who specializes in plantar fasciitis treatment. This type of specialist can accurately diagnose and treat your plantar fasciitis for permanent relief that is side-effect free.
Here’s the Easiest Way to Get Rid of Your Plantar Fasciitis Permanently
When it comes to plantar fasciitis treatment, not all physical therapists are the same.
Our physical therapy team at Back in Motion Sport and Spine Physical Therapy in Fort Myers, Florida, specializes in plantar fasciitis (along with other foot and ankle issues).
Unlike any other physical therapy clinic in the world, our physical therapists are trained in The Gray Method TM, a revolutionary method of treatment that permanently fixes conditions like plantar fasciitis by treating the cause and not just the symptoms.
In addition to our in-person clinic, we offer Telehealth Physical Therapy, so that you can have access to some of the best physical therapists in the world no matter where you are!