Plantar Fasciitis, Heel Pain, and Physical Therapy
IS IT PLANTAR FASCIITIS?
The foot is a complicated body part with many bones, joints and hundreds of soft tissue. These many components represent many opportunities for injury and chronic pain. One of the most common foot injuries is plantar fasciitis and heel pain.
Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia, the thick tissue connecting the heel with the toes.
Statistics for who gets plantar fasciitis vary, but they consistently are reported at around 1 in 10 people for the general population, for runners, and for people who seek medical treatment for their foot pain.
In treating dozens of patients with foot pain, we have found that those with plantar fasciitis can check off two or more of the following:
- Heel pain first thing in the morning
- Over the age of 40
- Heel pain lasting at least six months
- Recurring heel pain becoming sharper, more stubborn, or more disruptive of daily activities.
- Received heel injections or referred by doctor
Home stretching and exercise, such as plantar stretches, may help with heel pain. While exercise and over-the-counter pain meds may help, there comes a point where they stop working as well as before.
In that case, seek physical therapy before opting for more invasive options.
The reason we advocate seeing a physical therapist is not simply that it’s in our name. Rather, physical therapy is non-invasive, which places it at an advantage in terms of the risks for infection, nerve damage, and pain that surgery presents. Additionally, medical researchers consistently find that conservative medical treatments have the advantage of being low-risk and cost-saving.
FINDING A PHYSICAL THERAPIST
There is hope for successful treatment with the right physical therapy, which begs the question: What is the right physical therapy?
This is what we recommend: When you call a clinic to schedule an appointment, ask if the therapist specializes in treating plantaf fasciitis and heel pain. The receptionist may hesitate and ask the physical therapist, but if the therapist hesitates or says no, keep looking. You want a physical therapist who is using the latest techniques supported by research.
After you find a physical therapy clinic, you’ll schedule an evaluation. At Be Fit, we examine you completely and then take a look at any accidents, injuries or day-to-day activities that may have led to your problem.
THE PHYSICAL THERAPY PROCESS
There are three objectives of physical therapy, no matter the injury. The first two are pain reduction and increasing range of motion. The third is muscle strengthening. Therapists provide hands-on treatment to help restore normal movement. Treatment for your plantar fasciitis could include electrostimulation and manual therapy for heel pain.
A typical plan of care can last as long as 12 weeks, for a patient to return to full activities with no pain. A minority of patients will need invasive interventions. One study detailed in Orthopedic and Muscle Systems put that figure at 10 percent.
People who handle pain best, handle it early. Foot pain is tricky because it can come and go, but if pain recurs, and if you over the age of 40, seek the help of a specialist to see if there isn’t any serious tissue degeneration.