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Plantar Fasciitis

Heel and foot pain are very common. One of the primary causes of this pain is plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the plantar fascia, a strong band of tissue that supports the arch of the foot stretching from the heel to the bones in the mid-foot. While often referred to as ‘jogger’s heel’, plantar fasciitis is a common overuse injury and can affect both sedentary and active people, with roughly 1 in 10 people suffering from the condition at some point in their lives.

Pain is the primary symptom of plantar fasciitis and can be felt anywhere on the underside of the heel, although the source of pain is usually around 4cm in front of the heel and can be tender to touch. Usually it is worse after long periods of rest; first thing in the morning or after being sat down for a while. Standing on tip toes and walking upstairs may also elicit pain.

There may be no obvious cause of plantar fasciitis and it can develop gradually over a long period of time, however there are several instances that can lead to its onset, which include:

  • Individuals who spend a lot of time on their feet

  • Individuals who participate in excessive walking or weight bearing activities that they may not be used to

  • Overweight individuals due to extra strain on the heel

  • Wearing unsupportive footwear; those with flat feet or high arches are also more susceptible to developing plantar fasciitis

  • Overuse or sudden stretching of the sole in active individuals caused by an increase in training load or due to poor technique

  • Change of training surface, for example running on roads instead of treadmills or training and playing on hard pitches in the summer after a winter of soft pitches

  • A tight calf muscle / Achilles tendon can limit the ability to flex the foot which increases the tension placed on the plantar fascia.

Due to the nature of the tissue, fascia heals slowly and without treatment, plantar fasciitis may take several months to disappear. A variety of treatments can help reduce recovery time, with the best outcome resulting from a combination of the following treatment methods:

  • Rest – decrease the amount of load placed through the foot. Avoid running, excess walking or standing

  • Footwear – old and/or worn shoes that no longer provide enough cushioning or support should be replaced

  • Weight loss – reducing weight results in less force transferred through the plantar fascia when standing, walking or running

  • Massage – to help break up any scar tissue or tension held in the plantar fascia and the muscles in the back of the leg leading to less stress on the tendons and fascia

  • Stretches (see below) – gentle stretching of the calf and Achilles tendon will help reduce the tension placed on the plantar fascia. Doing these first thing in the morning and last thing at night should help reduce pain, if you have time throughout the day, add in one or two extra sets.

Towel Stretch

  1. Sit with the affected leg straight out in front of you.

  2. Place a towel around the foot and gently pull it towards you until a stretch is felt.

Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 3-4 times.

Toe Extension

  1. Sit with the affected leg crossed over the unaffected leg

  2. Grasp the toes with one hand and bend the toes backwards and ankle upwards as far as possible

  3. If possible, with the other hand massage along the arch of the foot.

Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat for 2-3 minutes.

Standing Calf Stretch

  1. Stand facing a wall, hands placed on it for support. With your feet facing forward, step back with the affected foot. The back leg should be straight, the front leg should be bent at the knee

  2. Keep the heel of the back leg on the floor. To increase the stretch, push the back heel down into the floor.

Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 3-4 times.

Calf Stretch on a Step

  1. Stand facing the stairs with your unaffected foot flat on a step. Place the ball of the affected foot on the edge of the step

  2. Gently lower the heel of the affected foot until you feel a stretch.

Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 3-4 times.

If you have any questions or think you may be suffering from plantar fasciitis, please feel free to contact Guildford Chiropractic Centre and speak to one of our team.

Tiffany Weedon, BSc (Hons) in Sport and Exercise Science, MSc in Sports Rehabilitation


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