Treating Plantar Fasciitis with Physical Therapy
What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is a condition that causes heel pain that radiates into the bottom of your foot. It can happen to anyone, at any age, but it’s an overuse injury that is more common in runners and people who are on their feet more often.
The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that connects your heel to the ball of your foot and supports the arch. Poor foot positioning can cause the structures in your foot to load incorrectly, which puts pressure on the band. An injury to the tendons in your foot and ankle can also damage the fascia.
When the plantar fascia becomes inflamed, irritated or weak, it can tear and cause a stabbing sensation in your heel and other pain symptoms:
- Increased pain in the morning or when taking the first few steps after resting.
- Increased heel pain with prolonged standing, walking and stair climbing.
- Increased pain when standing and walking on hard surfaces or without proper shoe support.
Sometimes, as your body warms up, plantar fasciitis pain decreases — only to worsen once your activity progresses.
How Physical Therapy Can Help Treat Plantar Fasciitis
Physical therapy will help you return to your desired activities by improving the way your foot is loaded, restoring mobility to your tissue and addressing areas of weakness or imbalances in your foot. There are several effective physical therapy treatments, including
- Manual therapy – Physical therapists use their hands and/or ASTYM®/Graston tools® to manipulate the soft tissue in your foot. It’s like a massage for the plantar fascia. Manual therapy loosens the tight tissue and reduces inflammation.
- Dry needling – A common treatment for a variety of overuse injuries, dry needling targets trigger points that cause pain. Placing tiny needles into the fascia causes it to release and the pain fades away.
- Night splints – Wearing a splint while you sleep keeps your foot in a better position throughout the night. So when you wake up, you won’t feel the stabbing pain in your first few steps out of bed.
- Taping – Kinesiology tape, or KT tape, works similar to a night splint. A physical therapist tapes your foot in a position that better supports your foot’s natural arch and takes pressure off the fascia.
- Iontophoresis – Physical therapists can also use iontophoresis, which uses electrical stimulation to send topical pain relievers deeper into the soft tissue.