Physical Therapy for Plantar Fasciitis
Work at a desk? On your feet all day? If you’re in one of these two situations, chances are you need to give your feet a little TLC. Plantar fascia is a strong band of tissue at the bottom of your feet. Most of you at some point in life will feel pain and discomfort here. This is simply because we are always using (or abusing) our feet. In fact, they rarely get a break. This is where physical therapy for plantar fasciitis can be very important.
Physical Therapy for Plantar Fasciitis
9 out of 10 times, Plantar Fasciitis is the reason we get foot pain. The name translates into “inflammation of the fascia at the bottom of our foot”. It’s annoying as hell. The pain is typically located at the bottom of your foot near the heel. The first few steps you take after getting out of bed or a long car ride tend to be horrible. There’s also pain and tenderness to the touch. Physical therapy for plantar fasciitis is definitely a must in most cases.
So let’s get straight to it. Below we discuss plantar fasciitis treatment, including stretches for plantar fasciitis, strength training for the feet, and retraining proper foot/ankle movement.
5 Key Stretches for Plantar Fasciitis
Any kind of physical therapy for plantar fasciitis isn’t complete without an effective exercise program. There are many increments of stretches for plantar fasciitis that can be used. The ones we pick first depend on how the feet present. If the pain is substantial, you might want to begin with ankle pumps. However, if the foot is doing quite well – beginning with more aggressive stretches like the knee-to-wall with toe extension is a better idea. Below is a list of stretches for plantar fasciitis ranking from easy to difficult:
2 Basic Exercises to start off with:
Ankle pumps: This can be done sitting or lying down. The goal is simple – lift the foot up and point your toes towards your head as far as possible. Then do the reverse by pushing your foot and toes as far down as possible. Repeat this for 10-15 reps
Gastrocs Stretch: Find a wall you can lean against with your hands. Have one leg back, and one leg in front. Keep the knee straight and the heel on the floor for the back leg. Increase the stretch by driving your hips towards the floor. Swing back and forth into this position for 15 reps using your hips, and hold afterwards for 30 seconds.
3 More Advanced Exercises:
Knee-To-Wall Stretch: Same position as the above stretch, only this time we’re focusing on the front leg. While keeping your heel on the floor, drive your front knee towards the wall. If you’re able to touch the wall, move your front foot a bit further back and repeat. Swing back and forth into this position for 15 reps using your hips, and hold afterwards for 30 seconds.
Knee-To-Wall with Toe Extension Stretch: Again, similar position as above. Only this time, your toes will go against the wall. Make sure that both the balls and heel of your front foot remain on the floor. Drive your knee towards the wall for a stretch. If you’re able to touch the wall, find an edge to the wall and clear it using your knee. Swing back and forth into this position for 15 reps using your hips, and hold afterwards for 30 seconds.
Heel-Sitting Foot Stretch: Lastly, you can simply sit on your heels with knees bent, and on your toes. This stretch is quite intense, so we only recommend doing this at the later stages of recovery from plantar fasciitis. You can hold these anywhere from 10-30 seconds at a time for 3 reps.
Other Plantar Fasciitis Treatment Strategies
Foot Release with Ball: There are ways to improve the effectiveness of this plantar fasciitis physiotherapy. Strategically placing a tennis ball or a lacrosse ball under your foot can help. While maintaining pressure, roll the bottom of your foot out for 1-2 minutes. You should feel what a friend of mine calls a “sweet pain”. Start with this to warm up your feet before the stretches.
Frozen Water Bottle Technique: one of the more effective plantar fasciitis treatment strategies is the frozen bottle release. Simply freeze a 500mL plastic water bottle. Take it out of the freezer, and begin rolling it underneath the foot anywhere from 2-3 minutes. This is a good strategy for times when the foot is really irritated. Use a moderate amount of force that you can handle. The ice helps with the inflammation in the heel while the pressure from rolling helps reduce tension and move any potential swelling.
Things that can be worn:
Foot Night Splint: Alternatively, another great plantar fasciitis treatment strategy is to use a night splint specifically designed for it. The issue with sleep is that most people have their feet pointed down. This tightens the plantar fascia and is one of the reasons why many experience the heel pain first thing in the morning. Securing the foot with a night splint keeps the plantar fascia in a more stretched position. This will help reduce morning pains and help expedite the recovery process.
Avoiding Bad Footwear: The things you put on your feet can have a huge influence on plantar fasciitis. If you know your shoes may be the problem, it’s time to get new ones. If you regularly wear heels, you need to reconsider a healthier option.
Custom Shoes and Orthotics: Sometimes it’s as easy as getting an inexpensive heel pad that can offer extra cushion and support to your foot. Other times, custom-made orthotics and shoes are the way to go. Orthotics can change the distribution of force and pressure in your feet that you experience while you walk, run, or jump. They also offer support in areas that are currently not handling force well. We typically use this plantar fasciitis treatment strategy on an individual-basis. Not everyone needs it, but it can offer quite a bit of help to those that can benefit from it.
With any of the above physical therapy for plantar fasciitis principles, you must exercise caution. It’s important to progress these stretches, but not at the expense of a great deal of pain. None of the stretches for plantar fasciitis should exceed a 2/10 pain. You shouldn’t experience any sharp pain in nature, nor should there be any lingering pain.
Physical therapy for plantar fasciitis can sometimes take time. However, don’t be discouraged. We’ve seen thousands of cases and the majority resolve in a timely manner.