Plantar Fasciitis Made Simple

Oct 27, 2023

We often don’t realise the damage that can occur whilst doing our daily activities. Plantar Fasciitis is often an overuse injury of the foot.  We regularly see patients in clinic who have been misdiagnosed with plantar fasciitis as it is the most well-known foot condition and often used as a catch all term.  One of my pet hates is plantar fasciitis forums on Facebook where people have self-diagnosed the condition or untrained people offer well intentioned help to people based on what worked for them.  There are 53 main causes of foot pain so it could be that you are suffering with something else that is similar, which is why a thorough assessment is vital to treating foot pain to ensure the correct plan is put in place for the individual.  However, for this blog I will concentrate on plantar fasciitis.

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

The Plantar Fascia is a strong band of fibrous tissue that is connected to the base of the heel which runs under the foot, where the natural arch of your foot is and reconnects at the base of your toes.

The term “itis” is used to describe  inflammation, but in Plantar Fasciitis it tends not to be inflammation that causes the crippling pain that is experienced by those who are suffering  from this often debilitating condition.

Plantar Fasciitis is actually caused by damaged tissue.

Plantar Fasciitis is a chronic condition of the foot, a chronic condition is something that you have suffered with for more than 3 months, in some people it can be a relatively mild condition that comes and goes, for others it can become debilitating leaving them in excruciating pain.

Do you know that you have a dominant foot?

Typically your dominant foot absorbs the most stresses and strains and for those that suffer from Plantar Fasciitis it is often worse in their dominant foot. Although you can have Plantar Fasciitis in one foot or both feet, it tends to be more usually found in just the one foot.

Plantar Fasciitis often occurs because of an injury to your foot that has damaged the strong band of tissue.  But unfortunately, it is difficult to rest your feet as we tend to use them most of the day but, if possible, as with any injury, rest always helps.

Can Plantar fasciitis cause other problems?

The pain from Plantar Fasciitis can cause you to start walking differently, which then can result in secondary back, ankle, knee or hip pain masking the real problem. If the Plantar Fasciitis is treated this potentially could help the secondary issues of knee pain etc caused by it.

What are the signs of Plantar fasciitis?

When you have been diagnosed with Plantar Fasciitis, classic signs are that the pain is worse first thing in the morning, typically this is a sharp shooting pain and also a pain around the arch of the foot and up into the heel.   Sufferers tend to push through the pain when they first get up in the morning and it eases with movement. As the day progresses the pain builds and builds till you need to rest, it then calms down after a period of inactivity and rest, then flares up again when you start moving around. Triggering a cycle of rest and movement.

Can I do anything to treat Plantar Fasciitis at home?

The pain from Plantar Fasciitis starts first thing in the morning. To help alleviate the pain before you get out of bed gently knead the arch of your foot with your knuckles while stretching your toes upwards, this helps release some of the tension in the Plantar Fascia. One of the benefits of this technique is it helps with the pain by stretching the muscles in your foot and calf. Do this before getting out of bed.  Although this won’t cure the problem it will help with providing some temporary relief.

What can you do to help?

Foot Massage balls can be beneficial. Place the massage ball on the floor and roll the arch of your foot backwards and forwards over the top of the ball, alternatively place a tin of beans or a water bottle in the fridge once cold, take it out of the fridge and use it the same as the foot massage ball. This simple technique can really help and because the bottle or tin is cold, it can have a soothing sensation. Do this whilst sitting down.

The calf muscle can get really tight and it’s often an idea to do a simple calf stretch to help relieve the pain. You can do this by placing both hands on a wall and placing your leg out behind you with your foot on the ground and gently stretching your calf muscle.

What can a G.P do?

Often you go to your G.P first who will advise you on self-help treatments as sometimes small simple steps really can help.   If you have recently gained a significant amount of weight, or started to do more exercise, both of these things can place stress on the Plantar Fascia, causing Plantar Fasciitis to develop.

Sometimes a short course of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help, but these can mask the issue, they might help with the pain, but don’t get to the root cause of the problem.  You can in some instances be offered a steroid injection, but this is of limited short-term value and can potentially cause a rupture of the plantar tissue so although we are trained to do this as podiatrists, we don’t offer this as a route of treatment at our clinic as there are many better ways to treat the condition.

Who does it affect?

For some reason women tend to suffer from Plantar Fasciitis more than men and it often develops in the 40 to 60 age bracket.  One theory is that high heels and fashion shoes contribute towards this e.g. shoes with little arch support, incorrect footwear or arch support in the wrong position in your shoes. Being on your feet for prolonged periods of time, running, walking and dancing more than usual can all be triggers, but many factors can come into play. One in ten adults in the UK will suffer from Plantar Fasciitis at some point in their lives.

What can a Podiatrist do for Plantar Fasciitis?

A G.P is limited on what they can offer to someone suffering with Plantar Fasciitis, but there is help out there. As a specialist Podiatry Clinic you will be assessed by a professional Podiatrist who has been trained in the treatment of Plantar Fasciitis.

They will start with a full assessment before discussing a treatment plan.

It’s important before any treatment is undertaken that there is a correct diagnosis and that any treatment offered is appropriate to the patient’s condition.

These days clinics can offer so much more than painkillers and exercise, new treatments have been developed over the last few years using machines such as Cold Laser and Shockwave Machines, these can be used separately or together depending on an individual’s response to the therapy. You can also have SIS Magnetic Therapy. All these treatments are non-invasive and free from negative side effects.

These new technologies are proving to be highly effective in the treatment of chronic conditions like Plantar Fasciitis and we use them regularly in our plantar fasciitis clinic with great effect.