Treatment For Plantar Fasciitis Pain

Successfully treating plantar fasciitis pain is notoriously difficult. This difficulty is in part due to the fact that it’s difficult to give necessary rest to this part of the body (the plantar fascia), given that we literally stomp on our plantar fascia 10,000 times or more per day. Regardless of the reason though, the important point is that it’s quite common to find that you need to try numerous practitioners and treatments out before you find success with treatment for plantar fasciitis pain.

Routinely effective soft tissue treatments that easily manage the likes of tennis elbow, can often fall flat on their face when used as treatment for plantar fasciitis and heel pain. As a practitioner it is all too easy to pick up your most effective soft tissue ‘tool’ and find that it has no effect whatsoever on a case of treatment for plantar fasciitis pain. This uncomfortable fact of clinical life clearly calls for clinicians like us to adopt a flexible and determined approach with treatment for plantar fasciitis pain.

Exercises

There are basically 2 kinds of exercises that are used as treatment for plantar fasciitis pain. Exercises that seek to treat the pain itself by stretching the connective tissue to provide relief, and those that seek to strengthen the underlying muscle imbalances that caused the problem in the first place.

The typical stretch / pain management exercises used as treatment for plantar fasciitis pain and heel pain involve bending the foot (often using the body weight) to stretch the soft tissues. This type of exercise seeks to work as treatment for plantar fasciitis pain and heel pain by restoring flexibility to the plantar soft tissues.

The typical strength based exercise for managing the underlying weaknesses that cause stress in the heel and plantar fascia involve ‘functional’ weight bearing exercises like those we do on wobble boards and in gyms. These exercises target not only the strength of the foot itself but also the knee and hip where foot stability is largely dictated.

They key takeaway from this if you are seeking relief for plantar fasciitis pain is that a major part of the problem you most likely have is muscle weakness in the foot and leg.

In our experience it can be very very hard to use stretching type exercises as treatment for significant plantar fasciitis pain. Once there is scar tissue in the foot the majority people need hands on treatment for the pain.

Our experience has also been that people who strengthen their whole lower limb recover faster and suffer far fewer relapses after their treatment for plantar fasciitis pain and heel pain.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture needles can be used as treatment for plantar fasciitis pain with great success in some cases. Acupuncture’s intention is to stimulate blood flow and triggers nerve impulses that override pain signals in the soft tissues of foot and calf muscles.

We can treat your plantar fasciitis without using acupuncture if that is your preference. There is no way to sugar coat the topic of acupuncture as treatment for plantar fasciitis pain and heel pain.. it’s not fun. It doesn’t take much imagination to see why it might hurt to get acupuncture in the sole of an inflamed foot even when it’s done really gently and carefully which it is. The truth is however that in the grand scheme of healthcare there are certainly worse things ( see tooth extraction – joint replacement surgery – amputations radiation therapy ) and the pain is no more than the likes of a tattoo of laser hair removal.

The limitation of acupuncture as treatment for plantar fasciitis pain and heel pain is basically that like all healthcare interventions it doesn’t work for everyone. Some people say that acupuncture gives them almost miraculous levels of relief and others find it only makes a very small or temporary difference.

Guasha (scar tissue scraping)

Guasha is an ancient pain treatment technique that happens to still be extremely useful for managing a wide range of soft tissue complaints to this very day.

Guasha technique (and there are numerous modern interpretations like Graston Technique) aims to break up scar tissue, free the connective tissue and promote blood flow. It does this marvellously well.

There are various ways of employing Guasha as treatment for plantar fasciitis pain and heel pain but what they all have in common is the act of scraping the soft tissue of the foot with a blunt scraping tool. Like acupuncture this isn’t the most fun thing to be having done for most of us but sessions only need to be 10 or so minutes vand it beats being crippled by foot pain.

Based on 2 decades of clinical experience and exploring a huge number of treatment options for plantar fasciitis pain if we were only allowed one tool to treat plantar fasciitis pain, foot pain and heel pain it would be Guasha hands down. By far the majority of people getting treatment for plantar fasciitis pain and heel pain will experience noticeable changes within a handful of Guasha sessions if it’s done right.

Percussion

Percussion has been an established component of soft tissue release, massage and even respiratory healthcare  for thousands of years and it is no less effective today. Percussion massage as treatment for plantar fasciitis pain and heel pain generally involves the use of mechanical massage devices and is designed to break up scar tissue and promote blood flow within the soft tissues.

The key to success with percussion as a treatment for plantar fasciitis is using a device that is powerful enough to create vibration deep within the plantar fascia and  soft tissues. Percussion helps the majority of people seeking treatment for plantar fasciitis pain. Percussion is generally at its best when used in combination with the other treatments for plantar fasciitis pain and heel pain like those in this list.

Custom Insoles / Orthotics

Before the invention of hard flat surfaces like concrete, paving and tarmac humans walked mostly on soft ground. When the human foot interacts with soft natural surfaces the space under the arch is generally filled in by the ground – this is most obvious on sand where we leave a footprint behind. Human footprints provide natural arch support to the feet !!

If the arch is not supported over time ( like when you live in a city ) it creates stress in the sole of the foot. Orthotics push up on the arch and give it natural support which alleviates much of the strain that causes plantar fasciitis pain and heel pain. Heel cushion modifications in orthotics also mimic the shock absorption offered by soft ground.

Most people with plantar fasciitis and heel pain who are prescribed orthotics in our clinic find them to be an absolute game changer. For many the benefits of orthotics as treatment for plantar fasciitis pain are of course time dependent because they work by reducing daily stress in the feet. Reducing stress on the plantar fascia with orthotics aims to reduceinflammation and scar tissue build up in the foot… which feels good!

There are many ways to go about treatment for plantar fasciitis pain. The truth is that most people find a specific mix of the above approaches acts like a combination that unlocks their pain.  This is why the ideal scenario is to work with a team of practitioners who are willing to take a flexible approach.

Closing Thoughts

Regardless of which treatment you choose for plantar fasciitis pain, heel pain (or any other pain for that matter) the primary factor that determines our ultimate failure or success is always dictated by your mindset.

Let’s say for example you have very stubborn plantar fasciitis that hasn’t improved in 3 years. You finally try out a handful of treatments for your plantar fasciitis pain over a period of a few weeks and they don’t work for you. If based on these completely normal and expected setbacks and failures you decide that you’re incurable all the possibilities for success with further rehab and pain relief treatments vanish in an instant.

Another example of a classic ‘mindset fail’ is highlighted when we have great success using early phase treatment for plantar fasciitis. The early treatment success can make the patient feel better and they decide that they won’t bother with rehabilitation. A relapse recipe! Often this symptom based mindset is underpinned by the idea that it’s not ‘my responsibility’  to fix myself and that it’s enough to rely on my ‘doctors’. We are here to tell you straight up, that’s a weak mindset for healing pretty much anything.

The truth is those of us who successfully develop the strong mindset that works with and supports treatment for plantar fasciitis pain and heel pain are those who realise what it is we are really fighting for.

We aren’t working on pain relief or strength or effective treatment options we are working on our freedom in its most basic forms.

Successful treatment for plantar fasciitis is the freedom to do the things we need to do in order to thrive and survive in the long term. Freedom to work,  freedom to comfortably perform our duties of care to others and the freedom to enjoy a normal active life. Our entire quality of life is in a sense based on the freedom to move without crippling weakness and pain.