What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a thick band of connective tissue that connects the heel bone to the base of the toes. The plantar fascia can become overstretched and develop small tears within it, which leads to inflammation of this tissue, causing foot and heel pain. The pain is usually the most severe in the middle of the heel, but there can also be pain over the sole of the foot. The pain is generally at its worst when first walking after getting up in the morning, or walking again after a period of rest. The pain tends to decrease as you continue walking, and also is less when resting, as the plantar fascia is relaxed. In some cases, plantar fasciitis can lead to a bone spur at the point where the plantar fascia connects to the heel bone. Other symptoms of plantar fasciitis include redness, swelling, and warmth over the affected area.
How is plantar fasciitis caused?
Plantar fasciitis is caused by the repetitive over stretching of the plantar fascia. There are many things that can cause this. These include:
- Weakness of the lower back: this can contribute to plantar fasciitis in a couple of ways. One way is because if you have weak deep stabilising muscles of your back, somewhere else in your body is going to have to compensate for this. This often ends up being the muscles in your legs. This can cause the muscles in your legs to become overly tight, which places excess stress on the plantar fascia and causes it to become overstretched and inflamed. Another way is because weakness of the deep stabilising muscles of your spine leads to decreased nerve function. Your nerves are how your brain communicates with your body, and nerves from the lower back lead down to the legs. If these nerves are not functioning at their best it can affect the way the muscles in your legs and feet are working, leading to tightness and weakness, and therefore dysfunction. This dysfunction can eventually lead to plantar fasciitis.
- Having either flat feet or very high arches.
- Exercises such as walking, running, or dancing: this leads to tightness of the calf muscles, hamstrings, and Achilles’ tendon, which eventually causes over stretching of the plantar fascia.
- Any activities or occupations that involve standing or walking for long periods of time, especially when on hard surfaces.
- Wearing shoes that don’t provide adequate support for the feet, especially high heels.
- Being overweight: this increases the tension being placed on the plantar fascia.
- Rapid increase in activity levels.
- Poor biomechanics / improper gait.
How can chiropractic care help with plantar fasciitis?
There are numerous ways that chiropractic can help with plantar fasciitis. As mentioned above, plantar fasciitis can often be caused by weakness of the deep stabilising muscles of the lower back, leading to decreased nerve function and compensations throughout the legs and feet. Weakness of deep stabilising muscles of the spine happens due to improper motion of spinal segments. Chiropractors are able to find these areas of poor spinal motion, and perform chiropractic adjustments to these areas. This helps to restore proper motion to the joint, which helps to strengthen the surrounding deep stabilising muscles. When the deep stabilising muscles become stronger this properly stabilises the lower back, which helps to improve nerve function in the area, and stops compensations from happening down the legs and feet. When there is no longer the need for compensation the muscles in the legs can start to relax, and takes the stress off of the plantar fascia. The restoration of proper nerve function will ensure that muscles in the legs and feet that were weak, are now getting the proper input they need to function properly, and to become strong again. This helps to stabilise the legs and the feet, and make sure there isn’t excess stress being placed on the plantar fascia. Not only will chiropractors adjust your spine, but they can also adjust your hips, knees, ankles and feet, to make sure the whole kinetic chain is functioning properly. This ensures that there are no compensations happening anywhere, and makes sure there is nothing happening that is going to place excess stress on the plantar fascia. When you go through a full care plan with a chiropractor, and get all of these possible issues sorted out, it allows your body to heal naturally, without the need for any medical interventions. It addresses the cause of the issue, not just covering up the symptoms.
What are some other things you can do to help with plantar fasciitis?
- Weight control – if you are overweight you are constantly placing extra stress on your feet. By maintaining a healthy body weight you will be placing less stress through your feet which will place less pressure on the plantar fascia. This can give it a better chance of healing.
- Shoes – it is very important to have a good quality shoes that fit well. Ill fitting shoes place more stress on your feet and your plantar fascia. If you are unsure of your shoe size you can get a shoe fitting done. Also avoid flat shoes such as jandals, as these also place more stress on your feet.
- Rest – if you have plantar fasciitis it is important to spend time off your feet. You need to let them rest in order for the inflammation to go down and for your plantar fascia to be able to heal. However it is important not to stop exercise and movement entirely. This can cause the plantar fascia to become stiff, which can increase pain.
- Ice – placing ice on your foot for 10-15 minutes at a time throughout the day will help to bring inflammation down and reduce pain levels.
- Massage – massage can help to relieve the pain in your foot. An easy way to do this is to roll the sole of your foot over a foam roller. You can also freeze a bottle of water and use this to massage and ice your foot at the same time.
- Stretching – gently stretching the plantar fascia can help to relieve pain. An easy stretch to do is to rest your ankle (on the same side as your sore foot) on your opposite knee. Then gently pull the toes on this foot towards your shin and hold for 10 seconds at a time.
Should you wear orthotics?
A common treatment prescribed for plantar fasciitis is orthotics. While these can be good for providing relief of plantar fasciitis, they also come with their own issues. Constantly wearing orthotics can cause your body to become dependant on them, and can cause weakness in the muscles of your feet. You are much better off strengthening and stabilising your body naturally, and dealing with the actual cause of the issue, rather than becoming dependant on something for the rest of your life. Your body has the ability to heal and function well naturally, sometimes it just needs some help to get there, and this is why chiropractic care is a great solution.