What is plantar fasciitis, and what can I do about it?

Plantar fasciitis seems to be a big buzzword when it comes to foot pain, but just because you have pain in your foot or ankle doesn’t mean you have plantar fasciitis.

The word plantar refers to the foot, specifically the bottom of your feet. The word fasciitis is a two part word with the root word being “fascia”, which is the term for connective tissue that surrounds muscles, tendons, and other bodily structures. The suffix “-itis” means inflammation. these two words combined mean that the broad sheath of connective tissue that supports the arch of the foot is inflamed, and it is often quite painful to the touch as well as to bear weight.

Typically this condition occurs due to excess mechanical stress on the feet that is often a result of poor conditioning of the intrinisic foot muscles resulting in repetitive over-stretching of this tough connective tissue until it becomes inflamed. This is often seen in runners and track athletes due to overuse, but it can occur in other populations as well.

True plantar fasciitis is characterized by point tenderness at the heel in the circled area shown in the above picture. Those who suffer from this condition will often report pain that is worst when rising out of bed in the morning, or standing up after being seated for a prolonged period of time. Associated findings include excessive calf muscle tension and flat feet. This condition is often aggravated by walking, running, and other weight bearing activities.

Treating plantar fasciitis should consist of five major components:

1) Activity modification to avoid continued provocation of inflammation. This may mean dialing back your runs/workouts for at least a week or two to allow adequate time to heal.

2) Manual or instrument assisted soft tissue treatment of the calf and intrinsic foot musculature to break up scar tissue and promote circulation to clear inflammatory by-products.

3) Supportive taping such as Kinesio-Tape, RockTape, etc to prevent continued mechanical stress and promote proper foot movement. In severe cases a brace and/or orthotic may be necessary, but limiting range of motion and/or providing too much support before exhausting other options may only serve as a crutch.

4) Strengthening of the hip, leg, and foot musculature to prevent compensatory movements from worsening and exacerbating the condition. This may include lunges, ankle alphabets, and foot drills.

5) Proper dietary choices, and nutritional supplementation to promote healthy levels of inflammation in the body and facilitate the healing process. This may include omega-3 oil, boswellia, turmeric, ginger, and garlic.

If you or a someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, or has had similar symptoms in the past give us a call at (904)-775-8949 to find out why TOP athletes stay healthy with us!

– James Antun D.C., M.S.

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