Plantar Fasciitis: What is it? How Can Physical Therapy Help? 

Understanding One of the Most Common Orthopedic Complaints

Plantar fasciitis is by far one of the more frequently reported diagnoses in the orthopedic field. Exhibiting itself as a pain around the base of the heel, the condition may not be as severe as some other foot problems, but if chronic, it can greatly impact an individual’s overall quality of life and ability to function. Typically, this pain will be in one foot, though if a patient is predisposed towards this condition, it may manifest in both feet over time. However, there are a few different ways to treat plantar fasciitis, which can do a lot to reduce pain while drastically improving a patient’s ability to remain mobile and comfortable. 

5 Things to Know About Plantar Fasciitis and Treatment Options

Joining the heel with the front of the foot, the plantar fascia is a ligament which functions as a spring-like impact dampener. It keeps the foot’s arch supported and is crucial to making walking easier. As the plantar fascia is exposed to the usual strain of everyday life, it can start to experience wear and tear which causes degradation or inflammation. This is what causes the pain and discomfort associated with plantar fasciitis. 

Here are 5 important things to know in order to better understand plantar fasciitis and how it is treated: 

  • Symptoms: Affected individuals will experience a localized pain or ache around the heel or middle area of the foot. The severity of this sensation varies depending on the patient, but typically the first symptoms will start off quite mild and steadily grow over time. Some people report sharp, intense pain while others complain of a duller ache. When these symptoms appear also varies, with some experiencing them more early in the morning upon getting out of bed, while others find it flares up after physical activity. Either way, this pain can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to perform simple tasks that require mobility and being on their feet.
  • Causes: The typical age range for plantar fasciitis to appear in patients is 40 to 70. Women are slightly more predisposed to it than men, especially in the late stages of pregnancy. This is because a common trigger for the condition is the carrying of extra weight for long periods of time, which is also why patients who struggle with obesity are additionally at risk for it. The condition can also occur in long-distance runners or people who are on their feet all day for work. 
  • Testing and Diagnosis: Testing a patient for plantar fasciitis begins with a physical examination by a doctor, in which a series of simple exercises are performed. Patients will be asked to flex their feet while the doctor carefully applies pressure to the plantar fascia in order to see whether or not this exacerbates the pain. After physical tests are conducted, a doctor will likely order an X-Ray or MRI scan to ensure that the cause of the discomfort cannot be attributed to something else, before making a formal diagnosis. 
  • Treatment and Exercises: In addition to several at-home treatments such as rest, icing and braces, a doctor may also prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to patients who have been newly diagnosed with plantar fasciitis. Should these fail to sufficiently reduce pain, the next step may be the direct injection of corticosteroids into the inflamed area. Typically, a doctor will also recommend a series of stretching exercises to keep the ligament flexible. In drastic cases, if these treatment methods fail to yield results, surgery may be recommended. 
  • Physical Therapy: Most treatments for plantar fasciitis are paired with some form of physical therapy, which is essential to increasing calf and ankle flexibility, strengthening leg muscles, and improving balance. Physical therapy helps patients suffering from this condition to develop long-term methods for minimizing the symptoms, i.e., pain and discomfort. 

At the Medical Rehabilitation Centers of Pennsylvania, our team of physical therapists bring decades of experience to treating patients with all degrees of plantar fasciitis. We work closely with patients to develop treatment programs based on their unique conditions and needs. 

To learn more about our plantar fasciitis physical therapy services or to book your appointment, contact us at the location of your choice, or complete our online form and our team will get back to you as soon as possible 

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