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  • Writer's pictureMiracle Rehab Clinic

Physical Therapy for Plantar Fasciitis: Exercises and Treatment

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Pain at the bottom of the heel indicates that you might be suffering from plantar fasciitis. The condition is one of the most common causes of heel pain and is very disruptive to everyday life.

Every year more than 2 million people in the U.S. are treated for plantar fasciitis, but the number of sufferers is most likely even higher.

The condition is more common in runners and overweight people.

Plantar fasciitis occurs due to the inflammation of the plantar fascia ligament when it gets overworked or overstretched, and it's important to visit a doctor if symptoms persist for longer than a week.

Physical therapy for plantar fasciitis is one of the best ways to address and treat the issue.

If you're in need of physical therapy, be sure Schedule a Free Consultation at Miracle Physical Therapy and Massage Center.

What Is Plantar Fasciitis?

The plantar fascia is tissue similar to the ligament that connects the ones of the food. It runs from the heel to the toes and forms the foot arch.

When plantar fascia gets overworked, it may inflame and swell, leading to pain and discomfort. This tension and pain occur when the facia loses elasticity and is easily irritated by daily activities such as running and walking.

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Usually, plantar fasciitis affects one foot at a time.

People suffering from plantar fasciitis find walking and leading regular life difficult due to pain and limited flexibility.

The pain is greatest in the morning and generally decreases during the day, but more extended periods of standing can intensify it.

Physical therapy for plantar fasciitis is one of the best ways to treat the condition.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?

One of the most evident and common signs of plantar fasciitis is stabbing, sharp, or sometimes dull pain in the heel that develops over time. Some people may experience a burning sensation too.

Besides the heel, people may also feel pain in the mid-foot area.

While it can affect both feet simultaneously, it usually happens one foot at a time.

The heel and foot pain is generally most significant in the morning or after long periods of sitting or standing because the feet get stiff.

Longer periods of standing or walking can also intensify the pain because it increases irritation. That's why people who work standing jobs are among those who suffer more commonly.

Among the potential causes or risk factors of plantar fasciitis are calf muscle tightness, poor foot posture, obesity, and repetitive activity such as running, walking, dancing, etc.

It's essential to get diagnosed and start plantar fasciitis physical therapy treatment as soon as possible.

Diagnosis of Plantar Fasciitis

During your physician or physical therapist appointment, they will thoroughly examine you to determine the cause of your pain and discomfort and then recommend the best physical therapy treatments for plantar fasciitis.

Image by MayoClinic

The diagnostic process includes:

  • Medical history review to identify potential risk factors and other possible causes of the symptoms.

  • Physical examination to check the location and intensity of the pain.

  • X-ray or MRI is usually unnecessary unless the physician suspects another issue, such as bone spurs.

Once your healthcare provider establishes the diagnosis, they will prescribe the best physical therapy treatment for plantar fasciitis.

Besides physical therapy, your physician may recommend other tools and methods to speed up healing.

That includes: resting the foot and trying to keep the weight off of it as much as possible, switching to special orthopedic shoes with arch and heel support, applying the athletic tape, wearing night splits to stretch the foot, avoiding running and walking long distances, and switching up your exercise routine.

How Physical Therapy Can Help Plantar Fasciitis?

The answer to the question "can physical therapy help plantar fasciitis" is a resounding yes.

Your physical therapist will develop an individual treatment and exercise program which will help get you back on your feet (literally!).

What does physical therapy do for plantar fasciitis?

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Such modalities as icing, exercise, stretching, and massages help reduce or eliminate pain, increase the range of motion, strengthen the muscles, and help prevent the condition from worsening or recurring.

One of the most important parts of the physical therapy program is relaxing feet and calf muscles which can be achieved through a custom exercise routine.

Preventing Plantar Fasciitis

While there are no guarantees that you will never experience plantar fasciitis, there are some ways to mitigate the risks.

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Here are some things you can do.

Regular stretching

We often forget to include the feet in our exercise routines, but that's exactly what we should do to strengthen them and reduce the risks of plantar fasciitis.

Warming the feet and calves before working out helps prevent injury, increase flexibility, and improve blood flow.

If you don't have a regular exercise routine, you can still stretch out your feet every morning.

Healthy weight

Research shows that being overweight is a risk factor for plantar fasciitis. Excessive weight puts extra strain on the plantar fascia, heels, and the entire foot leading to inflammation and pain.

Maintaining a healthy weight with a balanced diet and physical activity is essential.

The right footwear

Comfortable and supportive footwear is essential to prevent plantar fasciitis.

Avoid wearing heels or basic flip-flops whenever possible, and choose shoes that support your foot's arch and heels.

Such footwear stabilizes the feet and protects them during all activities, from walking to running.

Soft surfaces

While avoiding pavement altogether is impossible, try walking or running on softer surfaces when you have the chance.

It's especially important for runners as it helps reduce the impact on the feet. So if you have access to a track or a park with unpaved roads, choose them over pavement or the street.

This way, you reduce the risk of inflammation, straining, and injury.

Physical Therapy Exercises for Plantar Fasciitis

Physical therapy exercises for plantar fasciitis are one of the best and most effective ways to prevent and manage the condition.

They help strengthen the muscles, reduce stress on the foot and the risk of inflammation, as well as loosen the stiff plantar fascia.

You can do these exercises with the help of your physical therapist and at home on your own.

Toe Curls

This is an excellent exercise to strengthen your feet, improve balance and increase flexibility.

  • Sit on a chair and place a towel on the floor in front of you.

  • Put your foot on the towel and start scrunching it with your toes.

  • Keep curling the toes and pulling the towel closer.

  • Repeat 8-12 times. Do the same with the other foot.

Toe Bending

Another great way to strengthen and stretch the toes and the feet is by bending them back.

  • Sit on a chair and cross one ankle over the opposite knee.

  • Grab the big toe, flex the foot, and start bending your toes back.

  • Feel a stretch and hold it for up to 30 seconds. You should feel a stretch at the bottom of the foot. If you feel too much pain, hold the stretch shorter.

  • Repeat the stretch 3-4 more times and do the same with the other foot.

Feet Flexing

This exercise is excellent for both managing plantar fasciitis and keeping your feet strong and healthy to prevent it. It helps reduce pain and soreness and increases flexibility.

  • Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you.

  • Keep your hips stable, and try not to move them.

  • Take an elastic exercise band and wrap it around one foot. Hold it with both hands.

  • Start pointing your toes and return them to a flexed position. Repeat 10-12 times.

  • Do the same with the other foot.

Calf Stretches

Tight calf muscles are one of the risk factors for plantar fasciitis. That's why keeping them flexible is essential to avoid and manage the condition.

  • Stand facing a wall.

  • Place your left foot in front of the right, put your hands on the wall, and bend the front knee.

  • Slowly bend forward to feel a stretch in the calf. Half for 15-30 seconds.

  • Do the same on the other side. Repeat the exercise 5-6 times.

Foot Roll

This exercise stretches the foot, helps relax muscles and fascia, and reduces inflammation.

  • Sit on the chair. Take a foam roller, water bottle, or tennis ball and place it under one foot.

  • Press it with your foot and start rolling up and down. You should feel nice pressure and relief. Do this for 1-2 minutes or shorter if it's too painful.

  • Switch and repeat on the other side. You can do this while watching TV or reading a book.

Final Thoughts

Plantar fasciitis is a common condition due to overworking the plantar fascia, leading to inflammation and pain.

About 1 in 10 people get diagnosed with plantar fasciitis. Some risk factors include continuous pressure on the foot, extended stress on the heel, excessive weight, uncomfortable shoes, and lack of exercise.

Physical therapy for plantar fasciitis is one of the best ways to address and manage the condition. The modalities include icing, stretching, rest, and various exercises. Physical therapy, like the one we offer at Miracle Rehab Clinic, provides exercises for plantar fasciitis that can also help prevent the condition.

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