What is plantar fasciitis?

This rather lovely sounding condition is caused by inflammation and fatigue of the plantar fascia, a band of tissue and muscle which runs underneath the sole of the foot. The condition can be caused by traumatic damage or injury, or can be because of an accumulation of smaller injuries over the years.

The plantar fascia acts to support the foot and help to give it a ‘spring’ effect when loading or planting the foot on the ground.  Plantar fasciitis therefore tends to be caused when the foot itself is suffering some sort of compromise – commonly the collapsing of the arches of the foot – which puts pressure on the plantar fascia to maintain the spring in the foot.  The pain that is experienced is generally due to the muscles within the plantar fascia having to over-work to maintain this ‘spring’.

Plantar fasciitis can be painful and is really common in runners as their feet are contacting the ground with a heavy impact, causing more work for the plantar fascia.  Also, while men can get this condition it tends to be more common in women.

What causes plantar fasciitis?

A number of factors can contribute to this painful condition. The most common of which are…

  • Being overweight
  • Suddenly starting or increasing the intensity of your exercise
  • Standing on your feet for several hours each day
  • Medical conditions such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Wearing high-heeled shoes and then switching abruptly to flats
  • Wearing shoes that are worn out with weak arch supports and thin soles
  • Having either an unusually high arch or flat feet
  • Having one leg longer than the other or an abnormal walk or foot position
  • Having tight Achilles tendons
  • Weakened hip or lower leg muscles

What are the symptoms of plantar fasciitis?

The symptoms include:

  • Pain in the bottom of your foot, especially at the front or centre of the heel bone
  • Pain that is worse when first rising in the morning (called “first-step pain”), when first standing up after any long period of sitting, or after increased levels of activity especially in non-supportive shoes

How is plantar fasciitis treated?

Treatment of plantar fasciitis will generally involve massage of the muscles on the bottom of the foot, within the plantar fascia, to alleviate the pain caused by their over-working.  The therapist may also use acupuncture or ultrasound to help reduce any inflammation as well as the muscle spasms in the over-working muscles.  The therapist will then look further afield for the predisposing factors that may have been the root cause of the condition and look to treat these too.

The therapist may also then give exercises for the patient to do at home to help them strengthen and massage the plantar fascia on their own.  Contrary to some ‘popular’ recommendations as found by a quick Google search, these should NOT involve stretching the plantar fascia, as it is the stretching of this tissue that has caused it to become irritated in the first place.

For more information or to speak to one of our highly trained osteopaths – give us a ring on 01354 694050