Do you have heel pain that’s worse after periods of rest? Do you dread the agony that comes with the first few steps out of bed in the morning? You could be suffering from a common cause of heel pain called plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis refers to heel pain (less commonly arch pain) caused by injury to the strong, fibrous band of connective tissue (plantar fascia) that runs along the bottom of the foot from the heel to the toes like a bowstring. It is a relatively common foot problem, typically characterised by heel pain that is particularly painful after rest (e.g. first thing in the morning). This heel pain (or arch pain in some cases) may seem to resolve after the foot ‘warms up’ but has a tendency to return the following morning or after prolonged periods of standing or walking.
Under normal circumstances, the plantar fascia works in harmony with the rest of the foot and leg to provide stability and shock absorption so that the foot can function correctly and withstand the demands of everyday life. However, when the plantar fascia is subjected to repeated and excessive strain it can develop small tears like a frayed rope and pull away from the bone where it attaches to the calcaneus (heel). This could be because the demands are simply too great for anyone’s plantar fascia to cope with (e.g. obesity, prolonged standing, running or traumatic injury) or because something undermines the ability of the plantar fascia to cope (e.g. the person’s foot type, altered biomechanics).
It’s true that some heel pain resolves on its own in some cases but this can take months and even years – a long time if you need to be active. Heel pain hurts and ignoring heel pain can make daily tasks such as grocery shopping, walking and even getting up in the morning increasingly difficult. The good news is that there are a number of non-surgical treatments available that are particularly effective when treatment is started sooner rather than later.
However, navigating the wide range of options to find the right treatment for your specific needs can be little overwhelming. Fortunately, our Brisbane podiatrists can help you find a treatment strategy for your situation. If your main concern is temporary symptom relief, our podiatrists can offer taping and make suggestions regarding other short-term strategies. For the forward thinkers, especially those with altered biomechanics and poor foot function, we can help tackle the cause of your plantar fasciitis by working with you to reduce pain and protect the plantar fascia from excessive strain in the longer term.
There is a school of thought that plantar fasciitis might be attributable to weakness of the muscles of the foot and lower limbs. Accordingly, you might see recommendations for strengthening exercises such as toe towel crunches or marble pick ups to strengthen the muscles inside the foot. The assumption is that strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the foot will help to reduce the load on the plantar fascia by reinforcing the arch with muscle power. For some people, this approach works well. For others, strengthening exercises just don’t seem to cut it, which isn’t surprising given that muscle weakness is but one of many possible plantar fasciitis causes. Furthermore, muscle weakness and plantar fasciitis may be case of the ‘chicken and the egg’. It isn’t always clear whether muscle weakness caused plantar fasciitis or plantar fasciitis caused muscle weakness with inactivity and altered gait. Either way, if you’ve tried plantar fasciitis exercises and are concerned that you recovery isn’t going as well as it could, our podiatrists can assess your feet, footwear and biomechanics to see if they could be part of the puzzle.
Taping the foot can be an effective way of reducing plantar fasciitis symptoms in the short term. It works by reducing the load on the plantar fascia to prevent further damage and promote healing. There are a few different taping techniques. One of the most common techniques we use in our clinic is low dye, which works by preventing the arch of the foot from lowering or collapsing to reduce the strain on the plantar fascia.
Unfortunately, tape is ultimately a short-term intervention and isn’t suitable for people with a known allergy to tape or if irritation occurs. However, our Brisbane podiatrists are well-equipped to help you investigate long term solutions such as orthotics that replicate the functional effects of taping.
You might see some recommendations for gentle stretches, especially of the calf and the bottom of the foot. The thought behind this is that tightness in other areas of the body can increase tension in the plantar fascia and that increasing flexibility will reduce the tension. Some people notice immediate relief from their symptoms and others struggle to keep on top of their stretching regime. In addition,
when it comes to stretches, pain can be prohibitive. As a result, early intervention to reduce pain and promote healing may be required before stretching can commence.
However, if you’ve already tried plantar fasciitis stretches and feel like you could be doing better in your recovery, we can help you to find out if there is another piece of the puzzle to be discovered.
Plantar fasciitis can range form a niggle in the morning to debilitating pain all the time and shouldn’t be ignored. Whether you’ve been struggling with heel pain for a few days or months, our Brisbane podiatrists are here to help. Finding the cause of your pain and getting you back on your feet as soon as possible is our priority. So, take the first step in your plantar fasciitis recovery with Instep Podiatry Brisbane and contact your preferred clinic to book an appointment with one of our Brisbane podiatrists.
The information above is general in nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subject matter covered. It is not a substitute for medical advice and you should always consult a trained health professional in relation to any injury. You use or rely on the information above at your own risk and no party involved in the production of this resource accepts any responsibility for the information contained within it or your use of that information.
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