The most common cause of heel pain, plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia—the ligament that connects the heel bone to the toes—becomes strained. This can lead to pain in the heel or bottom of the foot, which tends to be most pronounced first thing in the morning.
Plantar fasciitis most commonly occurs in middle-aged people, but can also happen to younger individuals who spend a great deal of time on their feet—such as athletes, soldiers and those who run for leisure. To help alleviate the pain of plantar fasciitis, the following are six methods that can be used.
Because the pain associated with plantar fasciitis is due to strain, one of the best ways to help relieve it is to allow the feet to rest. Limiting or entirely stopping any activities that are causing it, and to “avoid running or walking on hard surfaces, such as concrete.”
In one study mentioned by the American Academy of Family Physicians, 25 percent of patients with plantar fasciitis indicated that rest was the most effective treatment.
Although heat can sometimes provide relief from aches and pains, avoid using it to treat plantar fasciitis as it can often make symptoms worse. Instead, apply ice to the heel to help reduce inflammation. Try rolling a frozen bottle of water under the foot
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen can also help to relieve the inflammation and pain of plantar fasciitis, whether taken in pill form or applied topically to the area using a cream. Speak to your doctor first. Try a topical creams/gels like Arnica or Traumeel which are plant-based and penetrate into the area often helping to relieve strains and sprains.
People with plantar fasciitis should be mindful of the shoes they wear, as those with hard or flat soles can often make symptoms worse. Opting for footwear with good arch support and a cushioned sole.
Orthotics can help to relieve tension on the plantar fascia by elevating the heel on a cushion. Orthotics, custom inserts made based on a mold of an individual’s foot, are beneficial for providing arch support.
There are a variety of exercises that can be beneficial for treating plantar fasciitis, such as toe and calf stretches doing them when you first get up in the morning, as well as several more times throughout the day.
These stretches can help your ligament become more flexible and strengthen the muscles that support your arch.
If the pain and inflammation of plantar fasciitis persist beyond six weeks, your physician may recommend other nonsurgical treatment options, such as night splints.
The feet are often in a plantar-flexed position while a person sleeps, causing the plantar fascia to be shortened. Night splints “maintain a neutral 90° foot-leg angle and provide constant passive stretching of the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia,” making pain and inflammation much manageable first thing in the morning.
Physical therapy may help to treat plantar fasciitis by teaching the affected individual how to effectively stretch the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon, as well as strengthen lower leg muscles, which stabilize the ankle and heel.
A physical therapist can also taping can help to quickly relieve pain by unloading some of the strain on the plantar fascia allowing the tissues to heal.