Are You Experiencing Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms?
The plantar fascia is a part of the foot that’s made of a band of thick tissue and connects the ball of the foot and the heel. It serves to support the foot’s arch, and is susceptible to injuries that can cause inflammation or tearing. An injury to the plantar fascia is called plantar fasciitis, and its symptoms are pain felt in the heel, along the arch, or on the ball of the foot when you put weight on it. It’s a fairly common foot condition; roughly 2 million Americans are treated for plantar fasciitis symptoms every year.
Developing plantar fasciitis can be due to many factors, including:
- Age (the condition usually occurs in patients over 40)
- Certain activities (such as a job, sport, or hobby that requires the individual to stand for a long period of time, or otherwise bear excessive weight)
- An abrupt increase in the length or level of physical activity (such as starting a running regimen or a new job that requires you to be on your feet more than normal)
- Calf muscle tension that causes a decrease in flexibility
- Excessive body weight (with a Body Mass Index over 30)
- Flat feet (pronation)
People of any age or gender, whether they’re athletes or not, are susceptible to plantar fasciitis. There are treatment methods meant to reduce the pain associated with the condition, and allow the patient to regain the ability to bear weight on the foot.
Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms and Signs
Most often, plantar fasciitis symptoms occur immediately upon the sudden uptick in physical activity. The pain that you may feel is generally a sharp, stabbing pain felt just under your heel, and soreness or tightness along the arch.
Instances in which plantar fasciitis symptoms may be experienced are:
- Taking your first steps out of bed in the morning
- Standing for a long period of time
- Standing up after being seated for an extended length of time
- After high-intensity activities such as running, when your feet bear significant weight
- Climbing flights of stairs
- Walking without shoes or in shoes with insufficient support structure
The pain may begin to subside as your body temperature rises at the beginning of the day, but throughout the course of the day it will return after activities that aggravate the injury. When the pain is particularly severe, it can cause you to walk with a limp to avoid bearing weight on the affected foot.
How is Plantar Fasciitis Diagnosed?
Your physical therapist will need to perform a clinical evaluation, and compare that with your current health and regular levels of activity, to assess your injury and determine that it’s due to plantar fasciitis. By consulting your medical history, your therapist can rule out if the pain that you’re experiencing is a result of another condition you may have. It’s important to connect the symptoms that you’re experiencing with your daily tasks and activities while discussing your condition with your therapist, so that he or she can diagnose you appropriately. Reporting any lifestyle changes or how your symptoms may change dependent upon your actions will help your therapist create a treatment program that is tailored to meet your individual needs.
The following test may be employed by your physical therapist in order to diagnose plantar fasciitis symptoms:
- Manual massage and applying pressure to the heel area (palpation)
- Manipulating the ankle to bend the top of the foot toward the leg (dorsiflexion)
- Pressing the toes back toward the ankle
How Can a Physical Therapist Help with Plantar Fasciitis?
Physical therapists are trained to identify, assess, and treat patients who are affected by plantar fasciitis.
Your physical therapist will work with you through a therapy program that includes:
- Exercises to stretch your ankle and increase its flexibility and that of the plantar fascia
- Wearing a night splint in order to keep your ankle and toes in the right positions to heal efficiently
- Selecting footwear that is specifically designed to support your foot to minimize pronation and reduce pressure imposed on the plantar fascia
- Applying ice to the foot where the pain is localized to reduce inflammation and pain sensation
- Iontophoresis (medication delivered through your skin)
- Short-term pain relief by using athletic tape on the foot
Can Plantar Fasciitis be Prevented?
There are several things you can do to prevent injuring your plantar fascia, including:
- Wearing shoes with solid arch support
- Regularly replacing worn shoes, to be sure your feet are protected with optimal shock absorption
- Standing on a thick mat if any of your daily activities require you to stand in the same place every day
- Tailoring your exercise regimen to support foot health, including a dedicated warm-up and cool-down time, and a gradual buildup of the length and intensity of the exercise
- Putting more emphasis on stretching, especially your feet and calves before or after running and walking
- Emphasis on maintaining a healthy body weight
If you are experiencing any kind of plantar fasciitis symptoms, it’s important to contact an experienced physical therapist, such as our team at Physical Solutions, to get you on the path to recovery today!