Plantar fasciitis is chronic heel pain that occurs when the band of tissue that runs from the heel to the base of the toes — the plantar fascia — is damaged. The tissue plays a pivotal role in supporting the arch and facilitates foot movement while you're walking or running. It is treatable, with the best treatment being contrast therapy.
Plantar fasciitis is relatively common and often develops with age as the tissue loses its elasticity. It's also relatively common in people whose lifestyles include spending a lot of time on their feet and high-impact activities; for example, teachers who are on their feet all day and track and field athletes.
In the latter example, the damage is usually caused by repeated stretching and tearing (little tears) that eventually becomes too much, and plantar fasciitis treatment is necessary.
Plantar Fasciitis Causes
Plantar fasciitis can be caused by the shape of your feet (flat feet), which you can't prevent, but it's also caused by external factors, including:
- Age: Plantar fasciitis is relatively common in the 40 - 60 age group.
- Increased activity: Starting a high-impact exercise program at the gym, like aerobic classes, or taking up road running, can result in acute plantar fasciitis.
- The surface: Walking/running on grass vs. asphalt.
- Shoes: The shoes you wear play a very important role in preventing and treating plantar fasciitis. Shoes that don't offer proper support or that are so old the natural support is gone are contributing factors.
- Weight: Being overweight increases your risk for painful heel syndrome.
Certain medical conditions can also cause fasciitis, although they are rare. These include lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
How To Treat Plantar Fasciitis
As one would expect, the longer the condition is untreated, the greater the damage and the longer the treatment.
There are simple treatment plans, such as gentle stretching and physical therapy. You can also rest your foot, adjust your activities, and use orthotics. Some adjustments include the following:
- Exercising on a shock-absorbent surface; for example, mats instead of a hard floor.
- Changing your exercise program to include equally effective low-impact activities, like swimming or cycling.
- Buying supportive shoes that provide arch support and cushion the heel.
- Using heel cups or shoe inserts in your running shoes.
- Using athletic tape to support your muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
- Wearing night splints to hold your feet in a gently stretched position overnight.
- Taking anti-inflammatory pain relievers that contain ibuprofen.
Medical treatment is available, but it tends to be used for severe pain or when the home remedies and adjustments haven't had an effect. Options include:
- Shock wave therapy: Depending on the extent of the damage, you'll receive low- or high-energy shock waves to your heel. The resulting trauma generates a healing response, which aids healing in the affected area.
- Steroid injections: If, after a few months, the non-invasive procedures still aren't working, your doctor might use steroid injections to reduce inflammation and foot pain. Note that too many injections weaken the fascia, increasing the damage and making the symptoms worse.
- Plasma injections: Your blood that contains platelet-rich plasma can be injected into the heel to promote healing.
- Ultrasonic tissue repair: Ultrasonic imaging guides a needle-like probe to the heel, where it vibrates and breaks up damaged tissue, which is then suctioned out.
- Surgery: Surgery is a last resort, but it can help people who have very severe chronic plantar fasciitis. Gastrocnemius recession or gastrocnemius release surgically lengthens the gastroc tendon to release the tension on the plantar fascia.
The most effective treatment is cold therapy. It's often combined with heat therapy in a process known as contrast therapy.
Ice constricts blood vessels to reduce swelling and painful inflammation. There are several ways in which you can use ice or cold treatment.
An easy way to apply ice is to use an ice pack or wrap some cubes in a towel and put it under the arch and heel of the sore foot. Use the cold pack several times a day for up to 20 minutes.
You can also use a cold plunge tank or foot bath. If you use a cold water tank or an ice bath, cut down the time to 10 - 15 minutes.
Cold therapy and foot massage are a good combination because they can hasten recovery, reduce pain, and prevent other symptoms. All you have to do is fill a disposable bottle with water and freeze it without the cap on. When the frozen water bottle is ready, put the cap back on, sit down, and roll the frozen bottle with your sore foot. It's best to do this for 10 - 15 (max) minutes throughout the day.
Heat is used as a treatment for plantar fasciitis, but for a limited time. This is because heat therapy opens the vessels to increase circulation and prevent cramps and stiffness, but too much heat may actually cause more swelling and pain.
Unlike cold therapy, you can apply heat to the injured area for prolonged periods of time, such as 20 minutes to two hours.
Heat therapy includes:
- Heating pads or hot packs
- Hot foot baths
- Heated massage
Heat is best used alongside cold water or ice therapy.
Contrast therapy alternates cold and heat applications. The easiest way to use contrast therapy is to get two tubs, one with hot water and one with ice water. Put your foot in the ice water for two minutes and then in the warm water for 30 - 60 seconds. Continue for about 15 minutes. Ensure you start and end in the cold water tub.
Contrast Therapy Is Easy With The Right Products
Contrast therapy is the most effective non-invasive treatment for plantar fasciitis. It brings together the benefits of cold and hot therapy for a well-rounded approach to recovery. RENU Therapy has a selection of cold and hot water tanks that facilitate healing so you can get back on your pain-free feet in no time.Contact RENU Therapy by completing the onsite contact us form or call (714) 617-2007 now to find out more about our 100% satisfaction guarantee!