Has heel pain made you give up on “rise and shine”? Are your mornings more of a “hobble and whine”?
If a sharp, shooting or stabbing pain greets your feet as soon as they hit the floor each dawn, you are far from alone. Plantar fasciitis, the main cause for this type of pain, is believed to strike 1 out of 10 people. It’s one of the most common causes of heel pain we see come through our door!
Even with how many do come in to see us, however, there are many, many more who don’t pursue help for their heel pain at all! Perhaps they think it’s just a part of their lives now, or they are afraid that getting treatment will involve surgery or other complicated procedures.
This is all simply not true!
There are a number of conservative ways to treat morning heel pain and its symptoms. From simple at-home changes to laser therapy, odds are very high that an effective means of relieving your symptoms can be found without any need to consider surgery.
So, if you have been living with heel pain for some time now, it’s time for a brand new day. Before we provide a few of the ways that plantar fasciitis can help be put to bed, let’s make sure we’re on the same page regarding what it is.
What Is Plantar Fasciitis and Why Does It Cause Morning Heel Pain?
The plantar fascia is a strong band of tissue that runs beneath each foot. It supports the arch of the foot as we go moving about our daily lives.
The plantar fascia is made of some very tough stuff, but sometimes particular strains or repetitive motions can place more stress on the plantar fascia than it can handle. This can cause small tears in the band, which can then become painful and inflamed.
So why does it seem particularly bad in the morning? When the plantar fascia gets a chance to rest, it will retract some. Getting up and beginning to move in the morning (or really after any long period of rest) forces the band to stretch. This can be particularly uncomfortable until the band has had a few moments to “warm up.”
Basic Heel Pain Treatments
Rest is always going to be a fundamental key to treating plantar fasciitis. In many cases, not giving the band enough time or opportunity to recover from stressors is the reason you have heel pain in the first place.
To give your plantar fascia time to recover, you will need to limit or temporarily halt the activities that likely led to it developing.
Rest is good, but additional care is better! At-home ways of addressing the pain include:
- Ice – Applying ice to the underside of the foot several times per day, for no more than 20 minutes at a time, can help with pain and inflammation. Just make sure your ice pack is not as cold as to damage your skin, or at least have protective measures to avoid direct contact.
- Massage – Taking the foot up and providing a deep massage with your thumbs can be an effective relaxant and pain reliever. If you’re looking for a hands-free alternative you can do just about anywhere, use a simple tennis ball instead! Simply roll the ball beneath the bottom of your foot as you sit. A little soreness is expected, but lighten up if you feel any significant pain.
- Over-the-counter Medications – Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAiDs) are often recommended for help managing plantar fasciitis symptoms. Of course, please follow all directions and recommendations, and do not take medication for more than a month without consulting a medical professional.
Here’s a bonus: if you want ice and a massage at the same time, fill a plastic bottle or Styrofoam cup up about three-quarters of the way with water and freeze it. When the time comes, take the container out and roll your foot along it much like the tennis ball above.
(Just be careful not to do this anywhere that water can ruin things, or where there are electrical cords!)
More Advanced Treatments
If you’re not feeling much improvement with basic methods, or your plantar fasciitis has been long-lasting, it’s time to consider other forms of treatment. These forms of treatment tend to more directly address specific reasons why your plantar fasciitis may be persisting.
- Custom Orthotics – In cases where an abnormal foot structure is placing excess stress on areas of the foot, a custom-made orthotic can provide the cushioning and realignment needed to correct it.
- Physical Therapy – Sometimes the muscles and tendons connected to the plantar fascia can be placing consistent strain on it. The right exercise regimen can stretch both the plantar fascia and surrounding elements such as the Achilles tendon and calf muscles. The stronger and more conditioned all these parts are, the less that stress will influence them.
- Laser Therapy – Our office offers MLS Laser Therapy, a high-tech treatment that uses light energy to stimulate injured soft tissues. This stimulation encourages the body’s cells to accelerate repairs, and brings increased blood flow to the area. All these factors combine to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and shorten recovery time.
Surgery is only ever considered when nothing else provides the relief you need for your heel pain. The above options are also not the only ones available for those suffering from plantar fasciitis.