Plantar fasciitis is a condition causing foot pain. The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that supports the arch of your foot. It connects the heel to the ball of the foot. This band can become inflamed or can tear, causing pain. Pain can be felt in the heel, along the arch, or at the ball of the foot. Plantar fasciitis is a common foot condition. It occurs in as many as 2 million Americans per year and 10% of the population over their lifetimes. Plantar fasciitis affects people of all ages, both athletes and nonathletes. Men and women have an equal chance of developing the condition. Physical therapists help people experiencing plantar fasciitis reduce their pain and restore their walking ability.
Plantar fasciitis is a foot condition that develops when repeated activities put a strain on the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that supports the arch of the foot. People diagnosed with plantar fasciitis also may have heel spurs, a bony growth that forms on the heel bone.
Plantar fasciitis occurs most frequently in people in their 40s, but can occur in all age groups.
The condition can develop in athletes who run or jump a great deal, and in people who have jobs that require them to be on their feet for most of the day, such as police officers, cashiers, or restaurant workers.
Symptoms of plantar fasciitis often appear with a sudden increase in activity. You might feel a stabbing pain on the underside of your heel, and a sensation of tightness and/or tenderness along your arch.
People with plantar fasciitis may experience pain:
Your pain can fluctuate during the day, with pain improving as your body warms up and worsening later in the day after activity. As the condition gets worse, you may begin to limp.
The physical therapist’s diagnosis is based on your health and activity history, and on a clinical evaluation. Your physical therapist also will take a medical history to make sure that you do not have other conditions that may be causing your pain. Sharing information about your work and recreation, and reporting any lifestyle changes will help your physical therapist diagnose your condition and tailor a treatment program for your specific needs.
To diagnose plantar fasciitis, your physical therapist may conduct the following physical tests to see if symptoms occur:
Physical therapists are trained to evaluate and treat plantar fasciitis.
When you are diagnosed, your physical therapist will work with you to develop a program to decrease your symptoms. Your treatment may include:
Assessment of your gait (how you walk) and how this may impact your symptoms.
Stretching exercises to improve the flexibility of your ankle and the plantar fascia.
Strengthening exercises to improve the strength of supporting muscles.
Application of ice to decrease pain and inflammation.
Iontophoresis (a gentle way to deliver medication through the skin).
Taping of the foot for short-term relief.
Orthotics (shoe inserts) and supportive footwear to minimize abnormal foot motion, or to help support your arch, reducing stress to the plantar fascia.
A night splint to help you maintain correct ankle and toe positions while sleeping.
Gait training to help lessen symptoms and improve your walking ability.
Research shows that most cases of plantar fasciitis improve over time with these conservative treatments, and surgery is rarely needed.
Factors that contribute to the development of plantar fasciitis include:
Guidelines for the prevention or management of plantar fasciitis include:
Your physical therapist will design an individualized treatment program to help heal your plantar fasciitis and prevent future injury.