Is Your Foot Pain Plantar Fasciitis?

Jul 29, 2016

Kristine Hartsock

by Kristine Hartsock
PTA | Litchfield Park Location

Foot pain is debilitating, making it difficult for sufferers to get through normal activities during the day. Sarah is a nurse who is required to be on her feet for a good part of her shift. When she began to feel sharp pain in the bottom of her heel, it was made worse by standing and walking for long periods of time. She tried taking Tylenol and Ibuprofen, she bought new shoes and over-the-counter orthotics—but nothing Sarah did took the pain away.
There are many individuals like Sarah who suffer from pain on the bottom of the foot, making it difficult to stand and walk through the activities of daily life. Most commonly, this pain is caused by a condition called plantar fasciitis. To manage the pain, we may try using pain relief medications and shoe inserts, or even some type of supportive tape to eliminate the pain. These are good suggestions for pain management, but without the guidance of a professional, it is difficult to figure out the root cause of the pain. Without diagnosing the underlying problem, it will be near impossible to figure out what type of treatment best fits your individual needs and will resolve your pain for good.
Sarah had plantar fasciitis, one of the primary causes of foot pain. Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the supportive tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes. Common signs of this condition include pain in the heel when you take your initial steps in the morning and when standing still. The cause of the irritation in the tissue is usually lack of necessary support of the feet. Plantar fasciitis is most common in individuals ages 40 to 70, patients who are obese, use an unsupportive shoe, and/or those who are required to be on their feet for many hours a day. Once this condition has developed, it is important to seek proper treatment to avoid it becoming a chronic issue. Sarah knew she needed to go to her physical therapist to see which helpful treatment options were available to resolve her pain.
Sarah attended physical therapy for about eight weeks at the Foothills Sports Medicine Phoenix Physical Therapy clinic in Litchfield Park. While in therapy, she was introduced to exercises, modalities, hands-on manual treatments, and useful information on how to care for her foot while it was healing. These are some of the key tools that were used in Sarah’s healing process:

  1. Stretching/Flexibility

Plantar fasciitis can cause a loss of ankle and toe range of motion due to tightness in the calf muscle and plantar fascia (the ligament that supports the arch in your foot.) Her physical therapist measured range of motion to determine loss had occurred, and then implemented a plan to regain mobility. A loss of mobility negatively affects the normal walking pattern, and this changed movement pattern can cause pain in the knee and hip. It is important to maintain normal motion to avoid permanent impairments, so Sarah’s therapist determined the best stretches to use to improve her range of motion.

  1. Strength of intrinsic foot muscles

Sarah’s PT completed manual muscle testing to determine whether a muscle imbalance was occurring, and then determined exercises to address her specific deficits. Plantar fasciitis often requires strengthening of the smaller intrinsic foot muscles to improve the natural support of the foot and to create a permanent physiological change to lessen the chance of re-injury.

  1. Proper support for the foot

One of the most important jobs your physical therapist does is ensuring the foot has proper support when walking, to prevent plantar fasciitis from reoccurring. Sarah’s PT examined her shoes to determine if additional support would help her. Her therapist also assessed her shoes to see if an orthotic (or shoe insert) was needed for arch support. Physical therapists are trained to apply supportive tape to determine if orthotics are necessary before they are purchased.

  1. Education and care instruction

Throughout treatment, Sarah’s PT has several conversations with her about how to improve the healing process. Her therapist suggested ice, supportive tape, and light activity modifications to encourage the rehab process. She also prescribed a home exercise plan, so Sarah could continue to make progress towards her goals while at home and once her therapy sessions were over.
By taking these steps, Sarah was able to get through a shift at work without pain after eight weeks, with no additional modifications to her lifestyle. If you are suffering from foot pain, your therapist will provide you with instructions and proper care for the best healing result. If you suffer from plantar fasciitis, you may need to seek treatment from a professional—so contact your local Foothills Sports Medicine Phoenix Physical Therapy clinic today!

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