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You can save time and money by treating your own Plantar Fasciitis - here's how

Updated: Oct 27

THE PLANTAR FASCIITIS SELF-TREATMENT SERIES:

Plantar fasciitis is a pesky, painful and persistent problem, but the good news is that you can treat it yourself using some simple equipment if you know what caused it. No having to take time off work and forking out to go and see a physio!


This article will give you a complete list of the most effective treatments for plantar fasciitis that you can apply yourself. Two further articles will tell you in more detail about the very useful self-treatments of stretching and massage.

But first, let’s get something out of the way: what you shouldn’t do when you’ve discovered that you have plantar fasciitis.


Your first instinct for treating very painful plantar fasciitis might be to reach for the anti-inflammatories. That will be of almost no use, especially if you’ve had the pain for a while. Other injuries usually start with inflammation before the regeneration phase of the injured tissue kicks in. Plantar fasciitis is different. It usually skips the inflammation and goes into a degeneration or breakdown phase.


Two other treatments sometimes meted out by physiotherapists that won’t relieve or fix your plantar fasciitis are ultrasound and electrotherapy.


So, what to do about your pain?


Plantar fasciitis treatment: What is the most effective?


There will never be a single treatment to cure plantar fasciitis, simply because there can be so many different reasons why you develop heel pain. The plantar fasciitis treatments below can be roughly divided into treatments that reduce tension in the plantar fascia and treatments that strengthen the plantar fascia.


The most effective treatments according to the research are:

(see details under each section)

  • Stretching

  • Massage

  • Taping the foot

  • Foot orthotics or supportive inner soles in shoes

  • Night splints

  • Low level laser therapy

  • Specific shoes or rotating which shoes you wear

  • Weight loss

  • Strengthening exercises


Stretching for plantar fasciitis


The calf muscles are connected to the plantar fascia via an extension from the Achilles tendon and I always find that they are tight in my patients who complain of heel pain. As with the massage, you should not only include stretches for the plantar fascia but also for the rest of the leg and back. A word of caution – you can make the symptoms worse if you OVER-STRETCH.


Learn what stretches you should do for plantar fasciitis.


Massage for plantar fasciitis


It is easy to massage your plantar fascia as well as your calf using various sized balls and foam rollers. The current research suggests that foam roller massage can be just as effective as a massage from a therapist, when it comes to pain relief and increasing muscle length.


Massage for plantar fasciitis should include all the muscles along the back of your body – not just the plantar fascia. Learn how to massage yourself for plantar fasciitis.


Taping for plantar fasciitis


There are several variations of taping techniques that you can trial. The one thing that they all have in common is that they try and off-load the plantar fascia through supporting the inside arch of the foot and preventing the foot from rolling inwards excessively when you step on it. One of the most commonly used is the Low Dye Taping technique. You can watch my variation of this technique below.



Note: Commission may be earned on the links above

Orthotics or supportive innersoles for plantar fasciitis


Foot orthotics come in various shapes and levels of support. I usually prescribe a medium density off-the-shelf orthotic that supports the inner arch of the foot. This reduces the load on the plantar fascia and gives it a chance to recover. Think of it as a ‘crutch’ for the plantar fascia. I would advise that you consult a podiatrist if you do lots of sport.


I do not tend to use soft gel inserts for the heels. I know you have pain in your heel, but you will benefit more from combining a supportive orthotic (that off-loads the plantar fascia) with a soft trainer than putting a gel pad in your regular shoes. You’ll understand why I recommend this if you read my article on what causes plantar fasciitis.


I’ve selected the products below from Amazon as they are similar to the ones I use in my clinic and appear to be good value for money.


Note: Commission may be earned on the links above

Night splints for plantar fasciitis


Researchers suspect that the plantar fascia shortens during the night and that the sudden stretch when you stand on it in the morning injures it anew. The theory behind night splints is that they prevent your plantar fascia from shortening during the night and this reduces the pain in the morning as well as the chance of injury. I do find these effective in patients with persistent symptoms.


Night splints come in various shapes and range from very rigid to soft. I prefer the Strassburg Sock (paid link) for comfort, but I’ve also included an example of a more rigid splint below.


Note: Commission may be earned on the links above

Low level laser therapy for plantar fasciitis


Sorry, but you will have to consult a physiotherapist for this treatment.


Shoe selection for plantar fasciitis


Unsupportive and inflexible shoes give very little arch support and put a much greater strain on the plantar fascia. Wear supportive trainers. Yes, I know they’re ugly. Yes, I do mean to work as well. No, not for always – just until the symptoms settle.


Weight loss


The less you weigh, the less force is transferred through your plantar fascia when you stand, walk or run. As simple as that.


Strengthening exercises for plantar fasciitis


The shape of the foot is determined by a passive support system (bones, ligaments, plantar fascia) as well as an active one (muscles and tendons). The plantar fascia is put under extra strain if the muscles in the foot and lower leg are weak or not controlling the foot properly.

Strengthening and proprioceptive exercises can be very effective in the treatment of plantar fasciitis, but it is important that you do them at the correct intensity for the stage of your recovery. I explain these in detail in my ebook that’s available on Amazon. (paid link)


Note: Commission may be earned on the links above

I hope you found this overview of treatments for plantar fasciitis helpful. Like I said, I’ve written in more detail about how you can treat yourself with stretches and massage – just follow the buttons below.


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Need more help with your injury? You’re welcome to consult one of the team at SIP online via video call for an assessment of your injury and a tailored treatment plan.


Best wishes

Maryke



About the Author

Maryke Louw is a chartered physiotherapist with more than 15 years' experience and a Masters Degree in Sports Injury Management. Follow her on LinkedIn, ResearchGate, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.



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