Physical therapy can help manage your pain from plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation or irritation of the tissue located at the bottom of the foot causing pain. This strong band of tissue is called the plantar fascia. It helps to connect your heel bone to your toes and contributes to maintaining the normal arch of your foot.
The goals of physical therapy for plantar fasciitis include
• Reducing your pain;
• Restoring your foot flexibility;
• Improving your foot muscle strength; and
• Getting you back to your previous activity or highest possible function.
Your first physical therapy visit
During your first visit, your physical therapist will likely ask questions about your symptoms and the activity you were doing that led to your plantar fascia injury. In addition, your therapist will conduct a thorough physical examination and evaluation of your foot to find the real cause of your foot pain and to rule out other foot problems. Your physical therapist will formulate a treatment plan made just for you based on the evaluation and your needs and goals.
Physical Therapy Treatment Options for Plantar Fasciitis
To reduce your pain, your therapist may apply an ice pack wrapped in towel to your injured foot for 20 minutes. Ice application can help relieve your pain and swelling (if present). Your therapist may advice you to continue doing ice therapy when you get home. He or she may recommend that you do this four times a day for 20 minutes each application.
Sometimes, plantar fasciitis pain can be made worse by tight calf muscles, Achilles tendon or foot muscles. Your physical therapist will teach you exercises that you can perform to stretch those tight muscles or tendons. Stretching exercises may include calf stretch and plantar fascia stretch.
Stretching can improve your flexibility and ankle mobility.
If your therapist determines that you have weakness of your foot muscles or leg muscles, he or she will create an exercise program to address this. Depending on the level of your muscle strength, your therapist may start from simple ankle and foot exercises and progress to resistive exercises with the use of exercise band or other equipments.
One of the most commonly used physical therapy electrotherapeutic modality for plantar fasciitis is the ultrasound. The ultrasound is a heating apparatus that generates sound waves that can penetrate deeper tissues. This device helps soften deeper tissues and increases blood flow to the area of injury, which may help to hasten healing.
Your physical therapist may also recommend:
• Taping for plantar fasciitis
• Modification of shoes such as use of orthotics
One important aspect of physical therapy is patient education including formulating a home exercise program. If your therapist provided you with an exercise program that you can do at home, you should follow the program per your physical therapist’s instructions.
Plantar Fasciitis. Medline Plus, National Library of Medicine. Available at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007021.htm. Accessed on January 26, 2011
Physical Therapy Corner: Plantar Fasciitis. Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma (NISMAT). Available at http://www.nismat.org/ptcor/plantar. Accessed on January 26, 2011
Plantar Fasciitis and Bone Spurs. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Available at http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00149. Accessed on January 26, 2011
Heel Pain: Plantar Fasciitis and Plantar Heel Pain Syndrome. Dr. Stephen M. Pribut’s Sport Pages. Available at http://www.drpribut.com/sports/heelhtm.htm. Accessed on January 26, 2011