The Good, The Bad and The Ouch-Y
Heel pain is a very common complaint that affects a wide variety of people and Plantar Fasciitis is one of the main causes. If you’ve ever suffered with Plantar Fasciitis, you know how excruciating it can be, so we will explore some of the causes and solutions for this painful condition, in this article.
Please note: The following information does not replace the advice from your trained medical professionals and is for general consideration. Always consult your physiotherapist or physician for personalised medical advice.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
The Plantar Fascia (also known as the Plantar Aponeurosis) is a thick band of connective tissue that runs the length of the foot, from the heel to the ball of the sole. In addition to helping to keep the bones and joints of the foot in their correct positions, the plantar fascia acts as a kind of shock absorber when a person walks, providing tension and supporting the weight of the body at the arch of the foot.
When the plantar fascia ligament contracts or is overstretched or overused it can become irritated and inflamed, usually at or near to the point where it attaches to the heel bone (calcaneum). This most often occurs as a gradual process, though it can have a sudden onset.
What Are the Causes of Plantar Fasciitis?
While the exact cause may not be clear in every case, there are certain risk factors that can serve to increase the likelihood of a person’s developing Plantar Fasciitis, including:
- Being overweight, which can put extra stress on the heel.
- Spending a significant amount of time on your feet.
- Wearing old, worn out shoes or shoes that have insufficient cushioning or poor arch support.
- Suddenly doing more standing, walking, or running than usual.
- Recently changing the surface on which you exercise.
- Excessive tightness in muscles, such as calf muscles, and other tendons, such as the Achilles tendon.
What Exercises Help with Plantar Fasciitis?
While it is important to continue to exercise, in order to manage pain and facilitate your recovery it may be necessary to temporarily switch out high impact activities, such as running and jumping, for low impact cardio and strengthening exercises.
* Before starting an exercise routine it is important to consult an appropriately qualified health practitioner, such as your GP or an exercise physiologist.
Low impact cardio
Consider the kinds of cardio exercises you could add into your workout plan without causing or increasing pain or compromising your healing process:
- Some gym equipment, including rowing machines, elliptical trainers, and stationary bicycles, provides an excellent way to raise your heart rate, so there’s no need to miss out on your regular sweat sessions.
- If you would rather get outside for your daily dose of activity, you could try rowing, kayaking, cycling or hand cycling.
- Swimming is a fantastic low-impact, high-energy workout that is perfect for limiting the physical stress on the body.
- Battle ropes are a brilliant cardio-intensive strength and conditioning exercise tool, which can enable you to build muscles and lose weight while avoiding the potential for stress-, strain- and repetition-related injuries
Strength exercises and weight training are excellent ways to build core strength and develop a variety of muscle groups, and they may also assist you to move in a more biomechanically-sound way to help to prevent or minimise the risk of further injuries.
Strengthening exercises that could be included in your workouts without causing or exacerbating heel pain are:
- Push ups
- Sit ups
- Pull ups
- Crunches or reverse crunches
- Leg curls and leg extensions
- Bench press
Stretching is incredibly beneficial for a number of reasons. Yoga, for example, is a low-impact activity that combines stretching with strength building, breath control and relaxation. Talk to a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist, such as Transcend Health in Broadmeadow, NSW for recommendations on the kinds of stretches that would be most beneficial for you.
While Plantar Fasciitis is a common complaint, and there are several exercises that are widely considered to be effective in helping to reduce or prevent associated heel pain, every person is different and their Plantar Fasciitis can have a different origin – therefore, optimal treatment does vary from one person to another.
Which Exercises or Activities Should I Avoid If I Have Plantar Fasciitis?
If you suffer from Plantar Fasciitis, it is important to reduce activities that exacerbate your symptoms or elevate your pain above what you consider to be tolerable. These can include, but not limited to:
- Standing for long periods
- Exercises or activities that place stress on the heel and attached tissue, such as:
- Aerobic dance
- Excessive walking
- Excessive running
How Do I Reduce the Effects of Plantar Fasciitis?
In many cases, by taking the time to rest and recover, Plantar Fasciitis may resolve itself in a few months. In addition to continuing to engage in gentle exercise while avoiding activities that can exacerbate symptoms, you can help the healing process by:
Resting your feet
Complete rest isn’t advised, though a period of reduced loading can help to reduce symptoms in the early phases
Wearing supportive footwear
You may be overdue to update your running/gym/sports shoes. If your shoes are older than 12 months, or have clocked over 500km, consider a new shoe. Taping can provide some relief and in extreme cases orthotics or splints may be indicated.
Performing recommended exercises
Basic extension, flexion and rotation exercises are generally designed to stretch the calf muscles, but it is strongly recommended to make an appointment with a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist.
Maintaining a reasonable weight
Carrying excess weight can put additional pressure on the plantar fascia, as it tries to maintain the arch of the foot.
Where Can I Get Help for Plantar Fasciitis?
If you find that you are suffering from excessive heel pain and need help in managing symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis, it is recommended you speak with a doctor or seek the opinion of a health care professional such as a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist, such as Transcend Health, in Newcastle.
Click here to contact Transcend Health online or call us on 02 4961 3399 to arrange to meet with a Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist. We can help you discuss an individualised solution for managing your Plantar Fasciitis.