Plantar Fasciitis is a painful foot condition that is a common problem among athletes and individuals who are physically active. It is a condition that occurs in middle-age athletes, but can occur among all age groups. Plantar Fasciitis is often seen in recreational athletes, especially runners. Cases are also seen in individuals who are involved in prolonged physical activities. The plantar fascia is a band of thick connective tissue that stretches from the heel bone to the ball of the foot. This structure functions to maintain the integrity of the arch of the foot. The plantar fascia transmits weight across the foot when a person walks or runs.
Signs and Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis
Swelling and point tenderness around the heel bone or along the arch of the foot.
Pain in the affected area may be the most severe when standing on your feet, getting out of bed first thing in the morning.
Pain in the affected area of the heel or arch decreases as the foot "loosens" up after being used, but pain often returns with prolonged standing or walking.
Home Treatment Tips for those experiencing Plantar Fasciitis:
Rest - Avoid the activity that caused the Plantar Fasciitis for a few days. Take a break from running, jogging, or prolonged standing or walking. Try some alternate forms of exercise like swimming or cycling to keep up your conditioning.
Use of Ice or Cold Therapy- The use of ice after activity, or after as acute episode of symptoms, will help in reducing the severity of symptoms. You can use an ice cup to perform an ice massage to the heel and arch of the foot. Take a small styrofoam or paper cup and fill it three-quarters full with water and place it in the freezer. Leave the cup to freeze overnight. When you are ready to perform the ice massage, peel back the edge of the cup to expose the ice, and rub the ice on the affected area using a circular motion. Another technique to ice an inflamed plantar fascia is to roll the affected foot on a frozen water bottle. Freeze a 1 or .5 liter bottle of water and place your foot on the bottle, rolling back and forth while applying pressure. Either technique can be used 15-20 minutes at a time. Be sure to let the area re-warm itself for at least 40 minutes before re-applying ice to the affected area.
Strengthening and Flexibility Exercises- These exercises are designed to help strengthen the muscles of the foot to assist in supporting the arch and withstand the repetitive stress placed upon them during activity. Also, flexibility exercises will help stretch and loosen the plantar fascia.
Toe Curls- Rest your foot on a towel outstretched on the floor. Place your toes at one end of the towel. Curling your toes, bunch the towel beneath your foot. You can place a small object (like a book or a large soup can) at the opposite end of the towel for added resistance.
Pick Up with Your Toes- Pick up objects, such as marbles, dice, nuts and bolts, with your toes and place them in a nearby container.
Single Leg Balance Exercises- Stand and balance with only your affected foot in the floor, and then progress to using an unstable surface. You can use a very firm pillow to create an unstable surface. For an added degree of difficulty, perform the exercise with your eyes closed.
Towel Stretch- Place a towel, or even a stretch band if one is available, around the toes. Pull on the towel towards yourself to slowly bend back the toes. Keep pulling until tension is felt in the arch of the foot.
Standing Calf Stretch- Stand on the edge of a step with the ball of your foot. Let your body weight allow your heels to drop below the level of the step until a stretch is felt in the arch and in your calf muscles as well.
Use of Anti-Inflammatory Medications- Using anti-inflammatory medications, such as NSAIDs, will help reduce inflammation and pain. Over-the-counter medications will work in most cases. Please consult your physician if you choose to pursue available options using prescription medication.
Shoe Inserts, Arch Supports, or Custom Orthotics- These additional supports will address the problem of a lack of arch support seen in standard soles found in shoes. This lack of support may lead to an increase in tension of the plantar fascia, which can lead to inflammation and injury to the area. These supports are important if one has a flat or a high arch. They will often help relieve symptoms and allow one to continue their normal activities with a minimal amount of discomfort.
If you are experiencing symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis, try these home treatment techniques at the first onset of symptoms. Try not to train through the pain, but try and address the problem as it first arises. Heel Spurs can develop as a complication of Plantar Fasciitis that has gone untreated. If symptoms persist or increase, please consult your physician, Podiatrist, or Orthopedic Specialist with experience in Athletic-Related injuries for further evaluation.