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Understanding Plantar Fasciitis: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Why your persistent foot pain may be plantar fasciitis and what you can do about it

x-ray of foot showing inflammation of tissue due to plantat fasciitis

Do you ever feel a sharp pain or stiffness in one or both heels, especially when you take your first steps in the morning? And does this happen every day or on most days? You might be experiencing a common foot condition called plantar fasciitis. Let's break down what this condition is all about in simple terms.

What is plantar fasciitis?

There are three main ligaments in the soles of our feet, of which the plantar fascia is the longest and strongest. Imagine your foot as a well-built structure with an arch connecting the heel to the toes. This arch is supported by a thick band of tissue which acts like a shock-absorbing bowstring. This is the plantar fascia, and plantar fasciitis happens when tension and stress on this tissue becomes too great, small tears develop, leading to inflammation and pain.

What causes plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is a common condition which can affect anyone. 1 in 10 people in the UK will get plantar fasciitis at some time in their life. It’s most common in people aged 40-60 and around a third of people who have it get it in both feet.

There are several contributory factors, including:

Overuse or overload: If you suddenly increase your activity levels or start a new exercise routine without proper warm-up or conditioning, it can strain your plantar fascia.

Poor foot mechanics: Sometimes, the way your foot moves can put extra stress on the plantar fascia. Flat feet, high arches, or even abnormal walking patterns can contribute to this.

Improper footwear: Wearing shoes with poor support or inadequate cushioning can worsen the condition. High heels can also be a culprit, as they can strain the fascia and change your walking posture.

Age and weight: As we get older, our tissues become less flexible, making them more prone to injury. Additionally, carrying extra weight puts more pressure on the feet, increasing the risk of plantar fasciitis.

Symptoms of plantar fasciitis

lady in running gear holding painful foot due to plantar fasciitis

Symptoms can often manifest themselves over time, often without any specific injury or trauma, and are regularly ignored by the sufferer for many months. Here’s a list of the most common ones:

  1. Heel Pain: The most common symptom of plantar fasciitis is pain in the heel, particularly on the underside. People often describe the pain as a stabbing sensation and is typically most severe with the first steps after waking up in the morning or after periods of rest.

  2. Stiffness: People with plantar fasciitis often experience stiffness in the affected foot, especially after prolonged periods of rest or immobility. This stiffness may improve with movement but can return after short periods of inactivity.

  3. Pain with activity: Plantar fasciitis pain may decrease somewhat as you continue to move throughout the day, but it often intensifies again after prolonged standing, walking, or engaging in activities that put pressure on the foot.

  4. Tenderness: The affected area, particularly the bottom of the foot near the heel, may feel tender to the touch. Pressing on this area may cause pain or discomfort.

  5. Pain persistence: The pain associated with plantar fasciitis can be persistent, lasting for weeks, months, or even longer if left untreated. It may interfere with daily activities and exercise routines.

Some simple home exercises that can ease the pain of plantar fasciitis

If your feet are trying to tell you something, then there are a few simple exercises you can do at home that don’t need specialist equipment and won’t take up much of your time:

  1. Plantar fascia stretch: Sit down on a chair and cross one foot over the opposite knee. Using your hand, gently pull back on the toes of the crossed foot until you feel a stretch along the bottom of your foot and heel. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times on each foot.

  2. Towel stretch: Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Loop a towel around the ball of one foot and gently pull back on the towel, stretching your toes towards your body. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times on each foot.

  3. Calf stretch: Stand facing a wall with your hands against the wall at shoulder height. Step one foot back and keep it straight, with the heel on the ground. Bend your front knee and lean forward, keeping your back leg straight and heel on the ground, until you feel a stretch in your calf. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times on each leg.

  4. Rolling massage: Sit on a chair and place a frozen water bottle, foam roller, or small hard ball (e.g. a tennis ball) on the floor. Roll the bottom of your foot over the bottle, roller, or ball, applying gentle pressure. Roll back and forth for 1-2 minutes on each foot to massage and stretch the plantar fascia.

naked foot using roller to ease the pain from plantar fasciitis

How Mobility Therapies can help with the pain of plantar fasciitis

Any kind of prolonged pain can have a significant impact on your wellbeing, and you don't have to live with the pain of plantar fasciitis. At Mobility Therapies I take a holistic approach to diagnosing and treating all types of pain. I look at the source of your pain and will create a bespoke treatment programme using either corrective exercises, AquaStretch assisted stretching, or a combination of both.

Plantar fasciitis might sound like a complicated medical term, but by understanding its causes and recognising its symptoms early on, you can take steps to alleviate the pain and prevent it from interfering with your daily life. Remember, a little care for your feet can go a long way towards keeping you comfortably mobile!

It's essential to consult your GP or other healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis if you're experiencing symptoms of plantar fasciitis. Early intervention and appropriate treatment can help alleviate pain and prevent the condition from worsening. For more information about how Mobility Therapies can help you resolve plantar fasciitis or any other type of pain, please get in touch.

Mobility Therapies – helping you live the life you want, not a life in pain.

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