Topics in Physical Therapy: Plantar Fasciitis

What is Plantar Fasciitis? 

Plantar fasciitis is inflammation in the thick tissue (plantar fascia) of the bottom of the foot.  The plantar fascia connects the bone in the heel to the bones of the toes which helps to form the arch of the foot.

What Does it Typically Feel Like?

  • Tightness and/or pain on the bottom of the foot
  •  Pain that is worse in the morning or after being in one position for a long period of time
  • An initial slow decrease in pain with activity followed by increases in pain when activity continues throughout the day
  • Pain when lifting the big toe up
  • Tightness in the calf muscles

What Are Some Common Causes?

  • Repetitive microtrauma over many years with a gradual onset and no specific injury
  • Excessive pronation (rotation inward, flat foot)
  • Sudden increase or decrease in activity level
  • Heel spur

Risk Factors for Developing Plantar Fasciitis

Certain lifestyle and environmental factors may put you at an increased risk of developing plantar fasciitis. Firstly, participation in edurance sports increases your risk. This is due to the increased stress placed on your feet. However, prolonged sitting or standing which may cause decreased ankle flexibility, can also lead to plantar fasciitis. Changes in lifestyle or activity level may have an impact as well. Lastly, obesity or sudden weight gain can increase your risk as well.

Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis

  • Anti-inflammatory medication as well as PHYSICAL THERAPY treatment

How Will a Physical Therapist Treat Plantar Fasciitis?

Physical therapists may be able to treat plantar fasciitis. They are able to stretch the plantar fascia and calf muscles which therefore improves pain. Therapists can also provide soft tissue mobilzation as well as provide exercises to strengthen the intrinsic and extrinsic muscles to support the arch. Physical therapists are also able to provide education to those suffering from plantar fasciitis. This involves teaching individuals how to reduce the amount of stress they place on the bottom of their foot. Furthermore, they can provide shoe recommendations or modifications if necessary. Lastly, physical therapists can help with providing orthotics or night splints which may help with pain and inflammation.