Suffering From Plantar Fasciitis? What Is It and How Can It Be Treated?

Plantar fasciitis is usually caused by an increase in activities, a lack of or no arch support, lack of flexibility in the calf muscles, being overweight, a sudden injury, using shoes with little cushion on hard surfaces, using shoes that do not easily bend under the ball of the foot, or spending too much time on your feet. It should be noted that very few people under 25 get plantar fasciitis however a person limited to a wheelchair or using crutches can develop plantar fasciitis from not being able to stretch their calf muscles. So, as you can see this is not only observed in people who spend a lot of time on their feet but also with those who are not on their feet at all or very little.

The plantar fascia is the broad ligament that extends from the heel bone to the base of the toes acting like a thick rubberband on the bottom arch of the foot and supports the arch of the foot by connecting the ball of the foot to the heel. When walking and at the moment the heel of the trailing leg begins to lift off the ground, the plantar fascia endures tension that is approximately two times body weight. This moment of maximum tension is increased suddenly if there is lack of flexibility in the calf muscles. If you have gained weight, the percentage increase in your body weight causes the same percentage increase in tension in your fascia.

The classic sign of plantar faciatis is heel pain with the first few steps in the morning. The pain is usually in the front and bottom of the heel, but it can be over any portion of the bottom of the foot where the fascia is located. Some people have pain that moves around. The pain can be mild or excruciating, and can even prevent you from walking on that foot. It can last a few months, become permanent, or come and go every few months or years for the rest of your life with no obvious explanation. Even though your heel may hurt when it hits the ground, plantar fasciitis is not caused by the heel hitting the ground. Some people try walking on the front of their foot because the heel hurts so much. This not only won’t help, walking on the forefoot causes more tension in the plantar fascia – causing it to pull more on the heel – and it can make their condition worse. But, since it can take 12 to 36 hours after harmful activity for the pain to increase, it is not usually obvious which activity is causing the increase in pain.

Stretching the calf muscles before getting out of bed in the morning and a few times per day will usually cure plantar fasciitis. Leaning against a wall with your feet flat on the ground is another way to stretch the plantar fascia. When the calf muscles allow the foot to bend back easily, there will be less tension in the bottom of the foot when walking or running. If the foot cannot bend back as far as needed, excessive tension in the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon occurs. I have seen many cases of this condition and have treated it through stretching of the Achilles and the fascia by squatting down like a catcher and bending the toes in an upward direction. After stretching these tendons for several minutes, I have the patient massage the bottom of the foot with a small frozen  bottle of water. This is done by sitting and rolling the foot over the frozen bottle with firm pressure for 10-15 minutes and continuing for approximately 7-10 days. We have also used with great success a device to massage the bottom of the foot for people who sit a lot. That is called the “Foot Log” and I encourage you to click on and learn more about the device that I personally use for my feet as I am on my feet all day treating patients.

Not stretching before walking can cause new injury so make a habit of stretching before walking. And, stretching too far or too many times at once can hurt the heel and Achilles tendon. Try stretching slowly about five times before getting out of bed and after sitting a while.

The longer you wait to start stretching after plantar fasciitis begins, the longer your recovery will be. It may even take months of regular stretching and followed by icing if you have had the pain for too long. Replacing stiff-soled shoes with flexible shoes, using better arch support, using shoes with thicker and softer soles, and/or losing weight will help keep plantar fasciitis from returning.


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