Plantar fasciitis tends to be a very common cause of heel pain, which is an inflammation of a tissue named plantar fascia. This tissue originates from the heel and connects to your toes. The role of this tissue is supportive, as the plantar fascia acts like a rubber band that can successfully form the arch of your foot.
The height of the arch is determined by the length of the plantar fascia: if it is too high, the arch will be high; if it is too short, the arch will be low – a condition that is commonly known as flat feet. The plantar fascia is covered by a layer of fat that helps absorb the shock that occurs when walking.
Plantar fasciitis is oftentimes named heel spur, a condition that is caused by calcium deposits in the plantar fascia. However, heel spur is not painful. There are several ways to prevent or ameliorate plantar fasciitis, and they should be utilized depending on the severity of the condition.
One of the most effective ways to prevent the plantar fascia from stretching is reducing tension by applying athletic tape to the area that runs from heels to the base of the toes. The tape helps maintain the tension, which allows the plantar fascia to rest and heal. Since tension is usually transferred to the skin, the tape must necessarily stick to the skin in order to be effective. Podiatrists recommend using only specific tape that should be applied in the morning and removed before bed to permit the skin to breathe.
- Ice and Heat
Alternating ice and heat applications to the plantar fascia has been proven to dramatically alleviate pain and reduce swelling associated with plantar fasciitis, especially when paired with massage. Apply an ice pack to the problematic area in the morning, and follow with a heat pack in the evening.
Doing so helps provide consistent therapy to the sore tendons, muscles, and tissues, which, in turn, promotes healing. Of these, cold applications are especially efficient at treating plantar fasciitis, which is why you should use ice packs during the initial phase, and then switch to heat packs during the second phase, when the plantar fascia is healing. You can either heat or freeze the packs according to the type of treatment you are using.
When the plantar fascia becomes inflamed, resting is of utmost importance to the healing process. Stop doing any strenuous activity such as walking and sports to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.
- Shoe Inserts
Shoe inserts are probably the most recommended treatment option for plantar fasciitis, as they reduce stress at key weight points of the heel. At the same time, shoe inserts will keep your feet correctly aligned in order to prevent further strain, which also stabilizes your foot. Placing heel inserts made of poron foam inside the shoes will absorb the pounding foot shock of each step you take.
When tension in the calf muscles and Achilles tendon increases, tightness of the plantar fascia occurs. This, in turn, causes upward movement of the large toe, also known as dorsiflexion, which stretches the tissue and leads to inflammation. Stretching exercises can reduce the tension and tightness of the calf muscles and Achilles tendon, which will help relieve heel pain.
Stretch Exercise: Cross your affected foot over the other leg, grasp the base of toes, and pull them back towards your shin until you experience a stretch in the foot arch. Hold stretch for 10 seconds, then release. Repeat the exercise 10 times.
- Corticosteroid Injections
Managing plantar fasciitis through corticosteroid injections has been proven to have a relatively small contribution to ameliorating heel pain. Several patients have reported pain with very little relief even after having several corticosteroid injections.
Although casting is not recommended for treating plantar fasciitis, casting might bring little pain relief. Applying well-padded fiberglass walking casts and maintain the ankle in a neutral to slightly upward position (dorsiflexion) seems to work pretty much like night splints for treating this condition, but there is no solid evidence to support this claim.
- Emu Muscle and Joint Gel
With a powerful formulation that includes eucalyptus essential oil and black pepper, this gel can help relieve pain and also reduce inflammation.
To use this gel, rub a small amount on the problematic area. Repeat applications 3-4 times a day, leaving about 3-4 hours in-between them. If symptoms of plantar fasciitis are not ameliorated, consult your podiatrist or healthcare professional.
- Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy (ESWT)
ESWT is a relatively new treatment option for plantar fasciitis, and it involves using high intensity sound waves to promote tissue repair (neovascularization). However, it is recommended that you use ESWT in conjunction with other treatment options such as orthotics, stretching, activity modifications, along with a healthy diet for weight maintenance. Given that different practitioners utilize different levels of intensity, the success of ESWT can be quite difficult to determine. Some evidence has shown that this type of treatment might be successful if used correctly, even though it is generally available only in specialty clinics.
- Night Splints
Night splints keep the ankle in an upward position, and the toes extended in order to create a constant mild stretch of the plantar fascia. This, in turn, allows it to heal, reducing the tension and tightness of muscles.
Having been produced by Swede-O, PF FXT Night Splints are low-profile, thermal-lined booties that will speed up the healing process of the plantar fasciitis. The booties will gently stretch out the plantar fascia while allowing you to sleep comfortably at the same time. Just put the bootie on, adjust the amount of tension (or dorsal flexion) depending on how much you want your toes to be pulled back towards the ankle, and enjoy a good night’s sleep.
The last treatment option you can choose is surgery, which is usually the last resort patients have when it comes to plantar fasciitis. Success rates vary from as low as 37 percent to as high as 60 percent, although there is no success guarantee.