Plantar Fasciitis: What Is It and How Can Physio Help?

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The plantar fascia is the thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot and inserts into the heel. It provides support for the arch of the foot and acts as a shock absorber when we walk. Pain in the plantar fascia, referred to as plantar fasciitis or fasciopathy, occurs when this thick band of tissue becomes inflamed. Common symptoms include pain in the bottom of the foot with the first few steps in the morning as well as after long periods of being off your feet. People will often experience pain when pressing on the area of the heel towards the toes. 

Three exercises that can help relieve plantar fasciitis pain are rolling a frozen water bottle under the foot (have a thin towel between the water bottle and the foot) for a few minutes each day. This will stretch the plantar fascia and the cold will help with pain relief. Another exercise that can help is calf raises with the toes up. Normal calf raises are okay, but we get a greater stretch through the plantar fascia if the toes are up, as well, this exercise will strengthen your calves. The last is a self-stretch that is performed by holding the toes and the heel, pulling the toes up and pulling the heel down at the same time. Hold for about 30 seconds and perform as many times as needed for pain relief throughout the day.

Some other techniques that can aid in the treatment of plantar pain are dry needling and shockwave therapy. In the case of the plantar fascia, dry needling attempts to release trigger points that can be causing the discomfort and “tightness.” The needles are very thin and the process usually entails minimal pain. Relief may be felt after the first session, if not the research suggest 2-3 additional sessions.  Shockwave therapy uses high frequency sound waves to cause microtrauma on the area that it is being focused on, which will stimulate the healing process. This process is also relatively painless, but may feel a bit uncomfortable. The research suggests about four sessions of shockwave therapy in order to achieve maximum therapeutic benefit. 

Other healthcare professionals who can help in the treatment of plantar fasciitis are podiatrists. Podiatrists specialize in treatment of lower limb (foot and ankle, but not excluding the knee and hip) conditions. If your symptoms do not improve after seeing a Physiotherapist, they may suggest you see a podiatrist. 


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