We have all experienced that dull ache and stiffness after getting out of bed in the mornings. It might start as a niggling pain but soon progresses to something more serious, if ignored.
In this article, we will help you understand more about plantar fasciitis and what you can do to deal with it.
What is plantar fasciitis?
In simple terms, plantar fasciitis is the inflammation or swelling of the plantar fascia.
The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs from the heel to the toes.
Its main function is to provide support to the arch of your foot while walking, running, standing, etc.
Signs and symptoms
- Early morning pain in the ankle upon rising from the bed
- The pain of standing up after sitting for a long time
- Stabbing pain in the bottom of the foot, near the heel.
- Limited range of motion in the foot
- Pain increases when the foot comes in contact with hard surfaces, like bare ground.
Causes of Plantar fasciitis
Any minor stress on the plantar fascia can exacerbate to cause plantar fasciitis. From small tears and ruptures in the fascia to bony changes in the heel, there could be a multitude of reasons.
Role of physiotherapy in treating plantar fasciitis
Physiotherapy is immensely effective in reducing pain caused by plantar fasciitis. In addition to that, it also helps to restore function in the joint and prevent recurrence.
The common protocol followed by physical therapists to treat plantar fasciitis includes:
- Pain management
- Improving range of motion that has been lost to pain
- Gradual loading of soft tissue
- Strengthening exercises
In the initial stages of your diagnosis, your physical therapist will first aim to reduce your pain. For this, your therapist may employ a number of different techniques, like ice therapy, dry needling, ultrasound therapy, etc. Tapping, bracing or using ankle supports will also help to reduce pain.
Stretching is the next course of action that is usually employed. This can be performed either by the physical therapist in a clinical setting or by the patient himself when he is at home.
You can ask your physical therapist to explain the stretching maneuver to you. Repeated sustained stretching of the joint is necessary to ensure there is no shortening of the fascia or supportive structures.
The range of motion of the ankle joint can become severely restricted due to the pain that is caused by the condition. In most cases, the patient will resort to limping or walking on their toes.
Physiotherapists employ a multitude of techniques to resolve this problem. From stretching to gradual loading of the soft tissue structures that have been under pressure, there are different methods employed, and the choice of treatment will depend on the course of action followed by your therapist.
Strengthening the muscles of the feet is probably the most exhausting while still being the most important part of recovery.
The patient will be required to perform a number of exercises to ascertain that the muscles of the foot are being sufficiently loaded and strengthened. It is likely that the patient will feel some amount of pain and discomfort. However, with regular practice, the muscles that had been weakened due to pathological positioning will gradually become stronger.
It is essential that the therapist demonstrate each exercise to the patient and the patient observe him closely. It might take a while before the patient is able to mimic the exercises correctly.
This is where feedback from the therapist is important. The patient should also be encouraged to practice all exercises in front of a mirror so that he can independently perform the exercises at home as well.
Prevention Of Plantar Fascitis
It is not enough to only treat the condition. A good physiotherapist will ensure that he provides his patient with enough information to deal with this kind of situation in the future.
Prevention of plantar fasciitis involves strengthening appropriate muscles to ensure there is enough support to the arches of the feet. Regular stretching is also beneficial to ensure that the intrinsic (tiny) muscles of the feet are in good shape and able to cope with regular stresses and loads that are applied to it while a patient performs his daily activities.