Conditions > Plantar Fasciitis
Natural Plantar Fasciitis Treatment
- Plantar fasciitis affects the bottom of the foot. Pain is typically felt in the heel.
- A telltale sign of plantar fasciitis is morning foot pain that occurs on the first step out of bed, or foot pain that occurs on first step after resting for an extended period of time.
- Natural treatment of acute and chronic plantar fasciitis should include a combination of rest, proper shoes, stretching, osteopathic manipulation treatments (OMT), acupuncture, and prolotherapy injections.
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What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is a repetitive strain injury that occurs on the bottom of the foot. Pain is typically felt in the heel. It is most often seen in runners, joggers, and people who stand on their feet for extended periods of time.
A telltale sign of plantar fasciitis is morning foot pain that occurs on the first step out of bed, or foot pain that occurs on first step after sitting down for an extended period of time.
What causes plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis refers to pain in the plantar fascia, which is the piece of connective tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot and spans the foot arch.
As this connective tissue is excessively and repeatedly strained, it can become damaged and weakened.
As this connective tissue weakens, the arch of the foot “collapses” and the foot flattens. As the arch collapses, it begins to pull and tug on the plantar fascia.
That pulling and tugging leads to inflammation, which results in pain, and a lot of it. Plantar fasciitis pain can be debilitating!
Chronic plantar fasciitis foot pain
The good news is most plantar fasciitis resolves on its own when given proper rest and treatment. Chronic or recurring plantar fasciitis foot pain is not common but, as chronic sufferers already know, the pain can be debilitating.
But it turns out chronic cases of plantar fasciitis may have something to do with genetic factors and not just simple overstraining of the plantar fascia. According to recent studies, we know some people seem to be predisposed to degeneration of the plantar fascia.
Because of this, chronic plantar fasciitis may be more accurately described as “plantar fasciosis”, which describes foot pain that comes from degeneration and deterioration of the plantar fascia rather than just inflammation.
Risk factors for plantar fasciitis
Because not everyone who stands for a living or runs every morning develops plantar fasciitis, its important to mention risk factors for plantar fasciitis:
- Obesity and poor diet
- Flat feet or high arches
- Shortened Achilles tendon
- Weak foot muscles
So what causes foot pain?
Often times, disorders in the foot are associated with a breakdown in the biomechanics of the foot. This means uneven distribution of weight on the feet, which forces muscles, tendons, and ligaments to wear too little or too much. This extra tension and strain result in inflammation, and leads to pain in the bottom or top of the foot.
As mentioned above, chronic or recurring foot pain involves a degeneration of the tissue in the plantar fascia. Because treating chronic degeneration of tissue is just plain hard to do and still a bit of a medical mystery, treatments prescribed for chronic plantar fasciitis are often times better suited for acute injuries rather than tissue degeneration.
Plantar fasciitis treatment
Natural treatment of acute and chronic plantar fasciitis should include a combination of the following:
- Arch supports
- Well-fitted shoes
- Taping of the foot
- Stretch and massage
- Osteopathic manipulation treatments (OMT)
- Acupuncture therapy
- Prolotherapy or PRP injections
Plantar Fasciitis stretches and massage
I recommend two home exercises to massage the plantar fascia.
Tennis ball massage – Place a tennis ball or golf ball at the bottom of the foot, and gently stand on it. Alternatively, you can sit and place your foot on the ball. Move the foot back and forth to rub out any tender spots in the fascia and stretch tissues in the foot. Repeat 2-3 times per day as needed.
Water bottle massage – Freeze a water bottle and use it just like the tennis or golf ball massage. Use it to roll over the foot and to stretch the tissues. The ice will help to relieve pain and inflammation, and the massage will help stretch the plantar fascia.
Calf muscle stretch – Stretching the calf muscle can help relieve tension in the plantar fascia. A tight calf muscle may have led to plantar fasciitis occurring in the first place, so stretching your calves regularly can help relieve tension in the heel and improve range of motion of the foot.
Night splints for plantar fasciitis
Night splints, or foot boots, can significantly reduce foot pain from plantar fasciitis. This is because a night splint stabilizes the foot to allow the plantar fascia a chance to rest and recover.
But night splints are cumbersome and, like the name foot boot implies, a clunky thing to wear to sleep. But for chronic plantar fasciitis sufferers, night splints can offer relief from painful first steps in the morning.
Plantar fasciitis taping
Taping of the foot can be one treatment to remove plantar fasciitis pain by supporting the arch of the foot and reducing tension of the fascia.
Osteopathic manipulation (OMT) for Plantar Fasciitis
Osteopathic manipulation treatments (OMT) can resolve underlying structural imbalances in the hips, knees, and feet. Imbalances in any of these areas result in changes to the weight distribution of the whole lower extremity. Remember, no body stands alone: the foot is connected to the knee which is connected to the hip which is connected to the low back, all the way up to your head.
So not distributing weight properly from your head down to your feet can predispose you to developing plantar fasciitis. Osteopathic treatments help restore proper weight distribution to the feet.
Acupuncture for plantar fasciitis
Acupuncture works by treating the fascia and pain generators in the muscles. We know that acupuncture needles also activate the body’s natural painkillers, and help the clear out any inflammation.
Prolotherapy and PRP for plantar fasciitis
Prolotherapy and PRP injections are part of the still emerging regenerative medicine field. Both treatments show promising results at relieving plantar fasciitis foot pain. Regenerative injections can be especially important to those suffering from chronic plantar fasciitis.
Prolotherapy and PRP injections work by strengthening the connective tissues of the plantar fascia. The idea here is to help prevent the arch collapse that occurs when the plantar fascia is weakened and degenerating. Remember, this arch collapse is what triggers most of the heel pain of plantar fasciitis. As that arch collapses, it stretches the fascia and leads to that constant pulling which leads to heel pain.
As the name implies, regenerative injections help regenerate the connective tissues of the plantar fascia.
Top of foot pain
When we think about pain on top of the foot, there are only a few structures that are pain causing. If you have pain on top of your foot, it may come from the following:
Bruise or contusion – Swelling, bruising, and pain can occur after dropping something heavy on top of the foot.
Extensor tendinitis – Occurs when the tendons that extend in the top of the foot become inflamed.
Tight calf muscles – As a tight calf muscle pulls on the foot, it can alter the arch in the foot, which again can lead to the extensor tendons being strained.
A comment on inflamed tendons – What leads tendons to become inflamed, if at all, is a bit of a medical mystery. With foot pain, it is related to a dropped arch, a condition where the arch of the foot “collapses” or loses tension. With a collapsed arch, the weight of your entire body is no longer being distributed evenly across the very small surface area of your foot. Pain occurs when one part of the foot – in the case of top of pain foot, the extensor tendons – becomes strained for a sustained period of time.
Treatment for top of foot pain – One of the easiest treatments is to make sure you have good arch supports, good fitting shoes, and regularly stretching tight calf muscles.
Bottom of foot pain
Besides plantar fasciitis, a common culprit of pain on the bottom of the foot can be bone spurs:
- Bone spurs – extra bone growth on the heel that may result in heel pain. Although often regarded as the cause of plantar fasciitis, bone spurs are not the culprit behind most heel pain.