What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar Fasciitis Plantar fasciitis Is a very common condition that is caused when inflammation occurs in the plantar fasica – a type of tendon / ligament at the bottom of the foot. It connects the calcaneus (heel bone) to the bones of the toes and aids the foot in walking and helps absorb shock when walking and running. Plantar fasciitis generally presents with pain in the morning, with the first few steps being agonising, and the pain can reduce as the day goes on, conversely it can start off okay and get worse as the day goes on, getting worse with activity. It can last from a few weeks to 12 months depending on the severity and how well you can rehabilitate the foot! It can affect both men and women and can be made worse by poor footwear choices! There are a few causes of plantar fasciitis which include poor footwear, poor foot arch and overtraining. These result in microtears of the plantar fascia, which cause inflammation to occur. Risk factors for injury include being aged 40-60, being overweight and doing more exercise than usual without time for rest and recovery. If pain and discomfort occur for 12 months or more, then it is advisable to see the GP and discuss further options like surgery, but this should be considered as a worst-case scenario. Getting back to low level exercise and slowly building up strength in the foot is the next step after getting rid of the pain.

How can an osteopath help?

Osteopaths can help by working directly on the plantar fascia with techniques such as deep tissue massage which can help to reduce inflammation. Osteopaths will look for the root cause of the pain, which is often footwear or due to poor foot strength, causing the plantar fascia to do extra work and become inflamed. Osteopaths will also work on the surrounding muscles of the leg including the gastrocnemius (Calves), soleus and tibialis anterior and posterior (muscles at the front and back of your lower leg). Another technique used is mobilising the joints of the foot, with articulation and manipulation.  This may be painful but is very important as these structures are worked on as they can contribute to plantar fasciitis if not working well. Podiatrists may help with supplying orthotic inserts and assessing the foot and footwear and offering advice and guidance.

How to help Plantar Fasciitis, what can you do at home?

Firstly, you want to work on the areas around the Plantar fascia. This means working mobilising the joints of the foot and making sure they are moving properly. Secondly, working on the gastrocnemius and soleus muscle with a foam roller or tennis ball. This is important as they are likely to hold tension and be tender to touch with plantar fasciitis. Thirdly, working on the plantar fascia itself, this can be done with tennis balls, golf balls and even a frozen water bottle to use the healing effect of ice too. Pain killers can also be used, such as ibuprofen, paracetamol, and naproxen, with stronger medication being prescribed by the GP.  Losing weight may also be required, especially if the individual is overweight.

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