Plantar fasciitis is a common inflammatory condition that affects the band of tissue (fascia) that runs across the bottom of each foot and connects the heel bone to the toes. Pain is most often noticeable at the attachment point of the plantar fascia to the heel bone (calcaneus). Heel spurs are also associated with plantar fasciitis. These occur when calcium deposits build on the heel due to repetitive trauma causing strain on the foot muscles, ligaments and fascia.
Common symptoms of plantar fasciitis include an onset of heel and arch pain and tightness, often after a sudden increase in activity. Pain is usually worse with the first few steps of the morning, standing after a prolonged period of sitting, when climbing stairs, and/or when walking without shoes.
Physical Therapists can diagnose plantar fasciitis through a thorough physical exam, and by reviewing activity levels and past medical history. The therapist may look at footwear and assess walking mechanics and/or foot and ankle position when you are standing and moving. They may also press around the foot and heel to check for tenderness, and assess your range of motion, flexibility and strength.
Treatment for plantar fasciitis includes manual stretching and mobilization of the joints and tissues in the foot, strengthening the supporting (intrinsic) muscles around the arch, soft tissue massage, use of modalities such as ice massage, and kinesiology taping of the foot. Physical therapists may also recommend proper shoe inserts or footwear, or the use of a night splint which allows a prolonged stretch of the tissues in the foot.
Most cases of plantar fasciitis can improve with the help of physical therapy, and future injury can be prevented. Don’t let your heel pain stand in the way of enjoying your favorite activities.