Physiotherapy for Plantar Fasciitis: Pain Relief & Recovery

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Struggling with the stabbing pain of plantar fasciitis? You’re not alone. Fortunately, physiotherapy for plantar fasciitis offers hope for relief and recovery. In this article, we’ll cover how physiotherapy techniques can ease discomfort and restore mobility, guiding you towards a pain-free life. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or simply seeking relief from everyday discomfort, understanding the role of physiotherapy in treating plantar fasciitis is key. Our expert physiotherapists have lots of insights and practical tips to share, so keep reading to learn more! 

For a comprehensive guide on how physiotherapy can address various conditions, including plantar fasciitis, check out our Physiotherapy Guide for a deeper dive into the practice.

Plantar Fasciitis: What Is It?

Let’s do a quick recap.

At the foundation of foot mechanics lies the plantar fascia, a thick band of fibrous connective tissue running along the bottom of your foot, connecting the heel bone to the toes. Acting as a crucial support structure, it helps maintain the arch of your foot and absorbs shock during movement. With every step you take, whether you’re walking or running, the plantar fascia absorbs your body weight and maintains just the right amount of tension to keep you stable.

However, when subjected to excessive strain or repetitive stress, this resilient band can become inflamed and irritated, leading to the painful condition known as plantar fasciitis.

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Plantar fasciitis creates a sharp pain and tenderness along the bottom of your foot, typically near the heel. At One Body, we often see cases of plantar fasciitis in athletes or active individuals due to overuse or sudden increases in physical activity, such as running or standing for long periods. The repetitive stress placed on the plantar fascia can cause tiny tears to develop, resulting in inflammation and discomfort.

While plantar fasciitis can be annoying at best and quite painful at worst, advice from a physiotherapist and proper management can help you recover and prevent overuse in the future.

Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis

Figuring out if you have plantar fasciitis or another condition (Achilles tendinopathy and other soft tissue problems could be the culprit) is crucial. For plantar fasciitis, common symptoms are:

  • Sharp pain and tenderness along the bottom of the foot, particularly near the heel.
  • Discomfort that worsens with your first steps in the morning or after long periods of rest.
  • Pain that may decrease with movement but intensify after lots of standing or activity.
  • Pain that may increase when walking barefoot or on hard surfaces without shoes.
  • Stiffness and limited mobility in the affected foot, especially during those initial steps.
  • Swelling and inflammation around the heel area.
  • Feeling like you have a bruise or burning pain in the arch of your foot.

Whether your heel pain is preventing you from daily activities or just an annoyance in the morning, you do not have to live with the pain. In fact, continuing to strain or overuse the plantar fascia could make the condition worse. The best thing to do is book an appointment with your doctor (or come straight to a physiotherapist to avoid the NHS wait times) and start a physio treatment course.

Causes of Plantar Fasciitis

You can get plantar fasciitis at any age but we tend to see it afflict those leading active lifestyles, including runners, joggers, and avid dog walkers. It is often caused by repetitive stress or overuse, placing excessive strain on the plantar fascia. 

Factors such as a sudden increase in physical activity, wearing improper footwear, tight calf muscles, and other biomechanical issues can increase your chances of developing plantar fasciitis too. Moreover, if your job involves lots of standing or you are overweight, this may also increase your risk of plantar fasciitis as there is suddenly more strain on your feet.

If you’re unsure whether your plantar fasciitis is caused by overuse or improper walking, don’t worry! This is something we will talk to you about during physiotherapy – we are here to answer all your questions and show you how to not just heal but also prevent future occurrences.

Will Physiotherapy Help Plantar Fasciitis?

Yes! Physiotherapy for plantar fasciitis is ideal for managing and curing discomfort. In fact, physio is particularly effective for addressing all kinds of overuse injuries and tendinopathy

To treat this condition, physiotherapy targets the root causes of plantar fasciitis, offering a comprehensive treatment plan to alleviate your pain and restore function. This means we will teach you how to walk correctly, not over-strain or overuse your feet, and how to build strength to support your plantar fascia. Through a combination of manual therapy, stretching exercises, and strengthening routines, our physiotherapists address muscular imbalances, enhance flexibility, and improve biomechanics. More on this below.

Research underscores the effectiveness of physiotherapy in managing plantar fasciitis, with many patients experiencing significant relief within a few months of consistent treatment. Following the guidance of one of our skilled physiotherapists can completely resolve your symptoms, typically within a few weeks or sometimes a few months. Even in more stubborn instances, where recovery may take longer, physiotherapy can often deliver a positive outcome within a year. 

Diagnosing Your Condition

Before we delve into the specific treatments we recommend for plantar fasciitis, we need to confirm your diagnosis. As licensed and registered physiotherapists in the UK, we can provide a clinical diagnosis just like a doctor can.

To diagnose your plantar fasciitis, we will:

  1. Talk about your medical history, active lifestyle, and any changes in activity that may have led to your pain,
  2. Do a physical assessment to examine your flexibility, mobility and gait,
  3. Recommend an ultrasound if needed.

Whether you have plantar fasciitis or another cause of heel pain, physiotherapy can treat you. Understanding what is causing your problems helps us tailor physio sessions to be highly effective.

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Physiotherapy Modalities for Plantar Fasciitis

For plantar fasciitis, conservative measures are recommended to treat the condition rather than more intense interventions, like corticosteroid injections or needling therapies. Surgery should only be considered as a last resort.

This means you can effectively treat your plantar fasciitis with a few physio sessions and regular stretching at home. Your physiotherapist will show you exactly what to do.

Stretching and Strength Training

Physiotherapists use targeted stretching and strength training exercises to promote healing and prevent recurrence of plantar fasciitis. Key stretches include the calf stretch, performed by leaning against a wall with one foot extended behind, and gently pressing the heel into the ground to elongate the calf muscle. We also often recommend the plantar fascia stretch, which involves sitting with one leg crossed over the opposite knee, gently pulling the toes back towards the shin to stretch the arch of the foot.

Strength training focuses on stabilising and strengthening the muscles surrounding the foot and ankle. Exercises such as toe curls, calf raises, and ankle dorsiflexion exercises with resistance bands help improve muscle tone and support the arch of the foot. 

Don’t worry if this all sounds foreign to you – the physiotherapist will show you how to correctly perform these stretches and exercises at home, helping you create a regular schedule to stick to.

Ice, Taping and Rest

Don’t underestimate the power of rest! As plantar fasciitis is typically caused by overuse or strain, simply reducing the strain and taking a rest can significantly help reduce symptoms.

We also recommend icing your plantar fasciitis. Applying ice to the area helps reduce inflammation and reduces pain by constricting blood vessels and numbing the nerves. You should follow your physiotherapist’s advice for applying ice – typically, we recommend that you ice the bottom of your foot for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day, especially after activity or when the pain flares up.

Taping techniques, such as low-dye or kinesiology taping, provide additional support to the plantar fascia and help you walk with proper foot mechanics. The tape is applied in a specific pattern to offload stress from the plantar fascia and maintain the arch of your foot. Usually, taping is required during physiotherapy for plantar fasciitis or when pain is present, and we always advise removing the tape at the end of the day to allow the skin to breathe.

Gait Training and Shoe Inserts

We can use gait training for plantar fasciitis by analysing your walking pattern and identifying abnormalities or imbalances causing the condition. Gait training involves correcting these issues through targeted exercises and re-education of proper walking mechanics. Yes, we teach you how to walk. It’s simple but effective! This may include focusing on stride length, foot placement, and weight distribution to reduce stress on the plantar fascia and promote efficient movement patterns.

Additionally, we may recommend using shoe inserts, such as orthotics or arch supports, to provide added support and cushioning. These inserts help distribute pressure evenly across your feet, reduce strain on the plantar fascia, and correct biomechanical abnormalities. Standard shoe inserts are usually effective, but you may also want to try customised orthotics tailored to your foot shape and walking pattern, for optimal support and comfort. 

These techniques improve your current symptoms and should prevent future flare ups.

Soft Tissue Massage and Joint Mobilisation

Soft tissue massage and joint mobilisation are used to alleviate pain and restore function. Soft tissue massage targets specific structures such as the plantar fascia, calf muscles, and surrounding connective tissues to reduce tension and improve flexibility. Techniques like myofascial release and cross-friction massage might be used to break up hard tissues, increase blood flow, and promote tissue healing – but these are used sparingly. Gentle soft tissue massage is usually enough.

Joint mobilisation focuses on restoring the optimal range of motion and alignment of your foot and ankle joints. For this, we use gentle, hands-on techniques to manipulate the ankle joint, subtalar joint, and metatarsophalangeal joints, targeting any restrictions or stiffness that may be making your plantar fasciitis symptoms worse. 

By combining soft tissue massage and joint mobilisation, our physiotherapists effectively address both muscular and joint components of plantar fasciitis, providing some pain relief and promoting functional recovery. Along with stretches, exercises, gait training, taping and plenty of rest, it’s very likely that we can help you heal from plantar fasciitis and prevent any future occurrences.

Physiotherapy for Plantar Fasciitis at One Body

At One Body, you can find comprehensive physiotherapy for plantar fasciitis treatments. Our convenient central London clinics mean you can get diagnosis and treatment under one roof, saving you time and hassle. No long NHS waiting times! Private physiotherapy is accessible and affordable, ensuring you can get the treatment you need without financial strain. Plus, you can use your private health insurance to cover the sessions.

Our team of experienced physiotherapists specialise in various conditions, offering expertise and care in physiotherapy to plantar fasciitis patients. Don’t let plantar fasciitis limit your mobility and quality of life – we can help you take the first step towards relief. Start by exploring physiotherapy at One Body today.

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What is the fastest way to cure plantar fasciitis?

The fastest way to cure plantar fasciitis is by combining treatments like physiotherapy, stretching, and rest. For immediate pain relief, get off your feet and apply some ice to reduce inflammation and numb the area.

How long does physio take to help plantar fasciitis?

Physiotherapy can start providing relief for plantar fasciitis in a few weeks, but full recovery might take a few months, depending on the severity. For the treatment to be effective, you need to follow the physiotherapist’s advice on resting, stretching and strengthening.

What are the best exercises for plantar fasciitis?

The best exercises for plantar fasciitis include calf stretches, toe curls, and towel scrunches to strengthen and stretch the affected muscles and tissues. You can practise these techniques in physio, where your therapist might recommend taping your feet while exercising.

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