Heel Pain- A Nagging Symptom that Shouldn’t Be Ignored

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It is estimated that a condition called “plantar fasciitis” affects two million men and women in the US every year, and has been shown to be the most common foot condition treated by healthcare providers.  If you experience pain in your heel or foot, especially first thing in the morning or after a hard workout. Today we will learn how to address these symptoms so they don’t leave you sidelined!

What is the Plantar Fascia?

The plantar fascia is a band of tissue that extends from your heel to the base of your toes. This piece of tissue is very important for supporting the arch of your foot and assists during walking.

What are Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?

Symptoms of plantar fasciitis include the following:

  • Stabbing pain at the bottom of the foot, near the heel
  • Pain is most noticeable after a period of inactivity (such as when getting out of bed in the morning) or after standing for long periods

How do I Avoid Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is seen in athletes and non-athletes at the same rates. Risk factors for plantar fasciitis include poor ankle mobility (especially due to calf tightness), professions that require long periods of standing and body-mass index greater than 30.

If you want to check your calf mobility, follow these steps:

  1. Sitting on the floor, straighten both knees in front of you and pull you toes up toward your shin as far as you can without discomfort. Evaluate both sides to see if they are the same. Ideally, you will be able to pull your toes back toward your shin far enough that they are positioned over your heel.
  2. Place the foot of the ankle you want to test on the floor and take a step backward with the other leg. Lower into a half-kneeling position with the front knee (ideally) positioned over the toes of the ankle being tested. If your knee won’t move forward over your toes, you may have some tightness in your calf on that side.

What Should I do if I Think I Have Plantar Fasciitis?

Self-Myofascial Release: To relax the tension of the plantar fascia, a tennis ball can be used at the arch of the foot. While seated, place a tennis ball beneath the bottom of the foot that has pain. Roll the foot over the tennis ball for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times. For more intensity, stand and roll the effected foot over the tennis ball while holding onto a stable surface.

Stretching: Research supports the use of stretching techniques to minimize pain associated with plantar fasciitis. There are a few ways to stretch: Standing, place your hands on a wall in front of you.

Step backward with the calf you want to stretch, arms-length away from the wall. Make sure the foot of the calf you want to stretch is on the floor, heel touching the ground. You should feel a stretch in the calf of the leg that is furthest away from the wall (image 1). Hold for at least 20 seconds and repeat 3 times. For more intense stretching, bend your elbows and lean forward, toward the wall (image 2).

image 1 Image 1

imaeg 2Image 2


Shoe Choice: It is recommended to avoid high-heeled shoes if you are experiencing symptoms of plantar fasciitis. High-heeled shoes tend to tighten the calf muscle and plantar fascia and can worsen pain.  Instead, choose shoes with appropriate support, avoiding flip flops.

Physical Therapy: If you are experiencing pain that sounds like plantar fasciitis, it is recommended that you participate in a physical therapy evaluation. If pain goes untreated for a long period of time, it can affect the way you walk, run and stand. Changes in your movement patterns due to plantar fasciitis pain can be subtle, but can eventually lead to pain and compensation elsewhere, such as in your hips, knees, ankles and back.

Click Here if you think that you suffer from this condition.

By : Colleen Baughn, OTR, CES

McPoil, Thomas G., et al. “Heel Pain—Plantar Fasciitis.” journal of orthopaedic & sports physical therapy 38.4 (2008): A1-A18.

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