Three million cases of plantar fasciitis are reported in the U.S. every year, according to statistics from the Mayo Clinic, making it one of the most common causes of heel pain.
“Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thin layer of tissue running along the bottom of the foot from the heel bone to the toes,” said Stacey Grosnick, PT, MPT, CMTPT, a physical therapist with ThedaCare Orthopedic Care. “Anyone can develop plantar fasciitis, and it can be extremely painful because the inflammation causes swelling, which increases the tension on the fascia and surrounding tissue and nerves. Then, every step someone takes further increases that pressure, especially the first steps in the morning.”
Why people develop plantar fasciitis can sometimes be a mystery.
“We know that people who are on their feet a lot often suffer from it, as do runners, people who have significant changes in their weight or those who adopt a new, intensive sport or exercise activity, such as a boot camp,” Grosnick said. “There are times that we cannot pinpoint the exact cause.”
Non-supportive footwear can also be a factor. Industrial workers, nurses, other hospital staff and restaurant workers are examples of professions susceptible to the malady. Grosnick stressed that it’s important those folks wear shoes offering good support. If people are standing on concrete or hard floors all day, they should consider a cushioned mat to stand on.
Grosnick said treatment of plantar fasciitis by a physician usually involves a recommendation to take an anti-inflammatory drug and sometimes to temporarily wear a walking boot to take pressure off the fascia. They might also recommend a heel cup to relieve pressure on the heel or a night splint.
“At night when we’re sleeping, our foot is in a more plantar flexed or relaxed position,” she explained. “That places the plantar fascia in slack and when it’s inflamed, it tightens up overnight. That’s why the first few steps in the morning are very painful for some people. A nighttime splint keeps the foot in a more neutral position, so that when you get up in the morning it’s not quite so painful to take those first steps.”
Physical Therapy is a great treatment approach for plantar fasciitis.
“We’ll suggest and perform some stretching exercises and analyze their gait to make sure they are walking efficiently,” said Grosnick. “Improper walking mechanics can impact plantar fasciitis. We’ll also make sure the various joints in their feet are moving the way they should mechanically, and we’ll work on strengthening their calf muscles. Sometimes we’ll use dry needling to release trigger points.”
Grosnick also noted physical therapists focus on the foot’s arch.
“Most of us think we have one arch in our foot,” she explained. “There are actually two; one we see from the side and one that goes across the top of our foot. That’s called the transverse arch. Both need good support. We’ll work on all the intrinsic muscles in the foot – the muscles between all the bones that help maintain the shape of the foot.”
Besides suggesting exercises and checking body mechanics, PTs will focus on footwear.
“We recommend wearing good shoes that are appropriate for whatever work or activity a person is involved in,” she said. “Shoes with good arch support and cushioning are important, and sometimes we’ll recommend orthotics – either an over-the-counter pair or custom orthotics that we’ll design for them.”
Rest, icing and stretching the fascia are some of the home remedies PTs suggest.
“Freezing a bottle of drinking water and then rolling the bottom of your foot over can help relieve pain and inflammation and stretches the fascia a bit,” she said. “Rolling a golf ball under the foot is another way to stretch that tissue. Doing those activities, a couple of times a day, for 10 to 15 minutes, should provide some relief.”
Plantar fasciitis can become a chronic problem for many people, and for that reason Grosnick recommends wearing shoes at home.
“Many of us like to come home and kick off our shoes,” she said. “Anyone who’s had foot problems should wear shoes at home. I recommend different brands of sandals for those who really don’t want to wear shoes. We’re still on our feet often at home and we still need to wear supportive shoes, but they can be something more casual like sandals. Otherwise, people can become a hamster on a wheel, chronically repeating the inflammation.”
Looking Ahead: ThedaCare Medical Center–Orthopedic, Spine and Pain
ThedaCare Medical Center–Orthopedic, Spine and Pain, the region’s only comprehensive health center specializing in orthopedic, spine and pain care, is set to open in summer 2022.
The 230,000 sq. ft. Center includes a medical office building, specialty surgery center, and orthopedic and spine hospital with 25 in-patient beds, as well as support services, such as imaging, lab, retail pharmacy and dining, for total patient care at a single destination. The services offered will enhance access to specialized experts, where care teams understand each person’s unique medical background, lifestyle and personal goals, getting patients back to living their best life, sooner.
Among the many unique features at ThedaCare Medical Center–Orthopedic, Spine and Pain, patients will benefit from surgery suites with the latest technology, private recovery rooms and state-of-the-art physical therapy equipment and facilities. The new facility will allow patients to access even greater integrated care. From the initial consultation to surgery, recovery and rehabilitation – it will all be available at the new location, which will make treatment even more comprehensive and convenient for patients.
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in northeast and central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 18 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their best lives through easy access to individualized care, supporting each person’s own health and wellbeing. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand unique needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.
For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.