runner on trail in the woodsPlantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel pain among runners. The pain is due to the plantar fascia, the thick band of tissue that connects the heel to the toes of the foot, becoming inflamed. The inflammation can worsen over time and interfere with activities such as running. There are a variety of physical therapy treatments that can help reduce plantar fasciitis pain and get you back to running or other activities in no time.

Common Causes of Plantar Fasciitis

It is common for runners to develop plantar fasciitis due to the stress placed on their feet from repetitive running on hard surfaces. Women are more likely than men to develop the condition, but both can get plantar fasciitis.  Those who are most at risk for the condition include:

  • Overweight individuals
  • Those who are between 40 and 60 years old
  • Those with flat feet or high arches

Plantar fasciitis can be caused by a variety of factors. Some common causes of plantar fasciitis are:

  • Wearing shoes with little or no support
  • Walking or standing for extended periods of time
  • Long-distance running
  • Any activity that puts stress on the heel of the foot

Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms

A common sign that you may have plantar fasciitis is a stabbing pain in the heel of the foot. You may also feel tightness or stiffness along the arch of the foot. Some symptoms of plantar fasciitis are:

  • Pain first thing in the morning that lessens as you walk around
  • Pain when running or walking
  • Pain when standing after sitting for a long time
  • Pain when climbing stairs
  • Pain in one or both heels
  • Tenderness in the bottom of the foot

With plantar fasciitis, it is common for pain to go away after normal activity. Pain is often worse after a period of rest. Pain can worsen over time if left untreated.

Diagnosing Plantar Fasciitis

A physical therapist can diagnose plantar fasciitis by examining your feet and reviewing your health history and activity level. To diagnose the condition, the therapist may analyze your walking gait and may do the following to check for symptoms of plantar fasciitis and areas of pain:

  • Pressing on the heel area of the foot
  • Pressing the toes toward the ankle
  • Stretching the ankle to bend the top of the foot towards your leg

If the therapist suspects another condition may be causing the pain, imaging tests may be ordered to confirm that another condition is not involved.

Treating Plantar Fasciitis With Physical Therapy

Physical therapy has proven to be an effective treatment for plantar fasciitis. The goal of treatment is to reduce pain and minimize your symptoms. Physical therapy can be tailored for the individual’s specific needs and condition.

A physical therapy treatment plan may include the following:

  • Stretching and flexibility exercises
  • Taping the foot
  • Applying ice
  • Massage
  • Medication such as acetaminophen or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory

In addition, a physical therapist may recommend a cortisone injection to help with pain and inflammation. They may also recommend that you use a night splint that can be worn to hold the feet in place while sleeping or custom orthotics to be worn inside your shoes. Specific types of supportive shoes and exercises and stretches that you can do at home may also be recommended.

Some tips that your physical therapist may give you to help prevent plantar fasciitis include:

  • When running, wear shoes with cushioning and arch support.
  • Replace running shoes once they are worn out and no longer support your foot.
  • Always warm up and stretch your feet and legs before running or other activities.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.

Time to See a Physical Therapist

If you need help to treat pain from plantar fasciitis, contact our Portland, Oregon, physical therapy clinic. We can create a customized treatment plan based on current best practice interventions and your personal needs and goals. If you want to get back to running as soon as possible, complete our contact form or call us at 503-245-5710 to schedule an appointment with our specialists.

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