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Plantar Fasciopathy: Understanding how to heal your heel pain

Feel like your walking on glass in the mornings? Those first few steps after a long period of sitting hurt the underside of your heel? Struggling to stand at the end of a long day due to your feet? If so, then you may have plantar fasciopathy, also known as plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciopathy is a common condition that affects the plantar fascia - a thick band of connective tissue on the bottom of the foot. Plantar fasciopathy commonly affects individuals between the ages of 40 and 60, but can affect almost anyone. In this article, we will delve into the causes, symptoms, treatment options, and preventive measures to help you understand, and more importantly manage, this condition.

Causes and Symptoms

Plantar fasciopathy is often caused by repetitive strain or excessive loading of the plantar fascia, leading to microtears and inflammation. Factors such as overuse, improper footwear, high-impact activities, flat or high-arched feet, and tight calf muscles can contribute to its development. The condition is characterised by sharp pain or a dull ache on the underside of the heel or along the arch of the foot. Pain is typically worse in the morning or after periods of inactivity, and may improve with movement. Standing for long periods or walking on hard floor can also be aggravating.

Treatment Options

The treatment of plantar fasciopathy focuses on reducing pain, promoting load tolerance, and addressing the underlying causes. Physiotherapy interventions play a crucial role in managing this condition. Therapeutic techniques such as manual therapy, stretching exercises, and strengthening exercises can help relieve pain, improve flexibility, and restore foot function. Specifically, improving the windlass mechanism (a phenomena that refers to the tightening of the plantar fascia during the push-off phase of walking or running when you big toe extends). This mechanism helps distribute forces evenly throughout the foot and reduces strain on the plantar fascia. More generally, improvement of the footy intrinsics and plantar flexors more generally have been shown to reduce the severity and duration of symptoms as well.

Additionally, the use of orthotics, taping, or night splints may provide support and alleviate symptoms. Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) and ultrasound therapy are also viable treatment options in some cases. In severe or persistent cases, corticosteroid injections or surgery may be considered, though this is usually reserved for when conservative measures have failed.

Preventive Measures

Prevention is key to reducing the risk of plantar fasciopathy starting in the first instance. If you are keen to 'pound the pavement' for example, then gradually increase activity levels. Avoid sudden changes in intensity or duration to prevent overloading the foot. This may mean dancing long bouts for the first time in a while, or returning to running post injury. Wear footwear that provides adequate arch support and cushioning. Understand the importance of regular stretching exercises for the calf muscles and plantar fascia.

As physiotherapy professionals, we understand that addressing the symptoms of plantar fasciopathy early is essential for providing effective care. At Praxis, effective care means arming you with adequate advice and education so you can help manage the symptoms yourself. Further, implementing appropriate treatment options and emphasizing preventive measures, we support individuals in overcoming foot pain and restoring quality of life. After all, we aim to Prevent, Prepare, Perform! So if you have heel pain that is stopping you from doing what you would like to do, discuss it with our knowledgeable team today!

Until next time,

Praxis What You Preach!

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