Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel pain that can be even harder to get rid of than it is to spell. If you’re already dealing with plantar fasciitis, you understand how incredibly debilitating this form of heel pain can be … making any standing, walking, or jogging extremely painful and frustrating. I’ve seen this injury make previously-fit, ‘workout junkies’ cringe at the idea of going for their beloved runs around Austin or getting in a ‘leg day’ at the gym. Without the right treatment to get rid of the problem, many end up gaining weight and literally becoming depressed because of the limitations this stubborn heel pain is putting on their life.
As you’ll read in this article, plantar fasciitis can have a daunting number of different causes that are easily missed by a busy, rushed clinician. For this reason, this form tendonitis has a higher tendency to become a chronic problem than most others.
We’ve had patients at our clinic who had been suffering for years … unable to exercise, walk around Lady Bird lake, or enjoy many of the fun activities available here in Austin, Texas. This is such a shame because it doesn’t have to be this way, and typically occurs because they received plantar fasciitis treatment that is directed at symptoms rather than the true underlying causes of the heel pain (OR from getting treatment that didn’t fully address all the causes of the problem).
Unfortunately, a stubborn case of plantar fasciitis doesn’t typically go away on its own and will usually get worse if you don’t get the right treatment or just try to push through the pain. So if you’re having heel pain and reading this article, our goal is to give you the knowledge you need to make the right decisions about treatment and get you back to the active Austin lifestyle you deserve.
More specifically, the aim of this article is to:
1) give you an understanding of why plantar fasciitis (often misspelled as “planters fasciitis”) can be so difficult to fully resolve, and how the right treatment addresses those difficulties
2) arm with you extremely important information on how to choose the right plantar fasciitis treatment so that your heel pain doesn’t linger for years
3) provide a number of self-treatment techniques to start easing your heel pain and get you back to the activities you’re currently limited from or unable to do (See video below)
Why Plantar Fasciitis Treatment Often Fails To Get Rid of Your Heel Pain.
I believe a big reason that plantar fasciitis becomes a chronic long-term heel pain for many people is that most plantar fasciitis treatment approaches do not fully address ALL the CAUSES of the problem. Most physicians and therapists are forced to rush from one patient to the next and simply don’t have the time to identify and treat all the potential causes of your pain (explained below).
Furthermore, depending on who you see for help, many treatment approaches are aimed at symptoms rather than causes. For example, many physicians will simply tell you to rest, take anti-inflammatories and offer a steroid injection into your heel. Though people occasionally get some relief from this approach, I can promise you that your heel is not in pain because it is deficient in a man-made steroid like cortizone. Painful inflammation is a symptom caused by something else, and cortizone is aimed at decreasing inflammation rather than resolving the cause of the inflammation. Many people who get relief from this approach only find themselves dealing with the same heel pain less than a year later because the underlying causes of the problem were not addressed.
Another reason this injury is often unsuccessfully treated is that the potential causes of the problem are so numerous, so you can’t throw a ‘cookie-cutter’ set of treatments at every case of plantar fasciitis and expect a high level of success.
Every case is different and it doesn’t seem to be very selective or biased as to whom plantar fasciitis chooses to plague. Our patients with plantar fasciitis and other forms of heel and arch pain span a wide variety of body types and activity levels. From ultra-marathoners to sedentary desk workers, a huge variety of people develop this debilitating condition and make their way to our clinic.
And when it strikes, it can completely disrupt your lifestyle. If you’re reading this and already experiencing heel pain, you probably know what I mean … pain with simply being on your feet, dreading that first step out of bed in the morning, unable to go for a jog (or having to push through tons of pain to get your daily exercise), and the list goes on. It’s no way to live! But please know that although it can be more difficult to resolve than most tendinosis issues, plantar fasciitis is very treatable!
“After suffering from chronic, debilitating and excruciating pain from plantar fasciitis for almost a year, I had given up all hope of ever being able to walk without pain again. By a miracle I stumbled upon Carter Physiotherapy. They made some custom orthotics for me, did hands-on manual therapy, and I could walk pain-free within two days. And my pain was so bad that I had to use a cane or crutches to get around on some days. I even went to three podiatrists who all used very conservative treatment methods which didn’t help me at all. I highly recommend Carter Physiotherapy. They get to the root of the problem and fix it.”
~ Kimberly F, AUSTIN TX
(Click here to read more success stories from the patients at our Austin manual therapy clinic.)
Are you dealing with stubborn heel pain? It won’t cost you a dime to find out what’s causing it and create a plan to get rid of it. If you’re in the Austin area, click here to request a FREE in-person consultation with one of our heel-pain-specialist physical therapists.
What Are The Causes Of Plantar Fasciitis?
As I alluded to above, the only way to completely get rid of this heel and arch pain is to fully address every causative factor you’re dealing with, which can be a very long list of things depending on the situation. Here are some examples of common and not-so-common causes of plantar fasciitis:
- Tight calves
- Tight tissues in the foot
- Stiff ankle joints
- Stiff joints in the foot
- Joints in the foot that are too loose and unstable
- Flat feet / Over-pronation
- High Arches / Over-supination
- Decreased range of motion in your toes
- Weak muscles in the foot and lower leg
- Tight hamstrings
- Tight hip flexors
- Weak hip flexors
- Weak hip rotational muscles
- Heel spur
And the list goes on …
Interestingly, some of the things listed are the exact opposite of each other (Ex: loose joints and tight joints; over-pronation and over-supination)
And just because you have a common cause of plantar fasciitis doesn’t mean you’ll develop it or that it’s actually a major contributor to the pain you’re experiencing … we’ve had patients with perfectly flexible calves and fascia of the foot that still developed plantar fasciitis. In those cases, it was often the mobility of the joints of the foot and ankle that were the primary cause of the plantar fascia irritation.
Many of the causes of plantar fasciitis are interlinked and often one cause leads to another, or may have been present due to an injury from long ago that you completely forgot about. For example: an old ankle sprain that left you with decreased ankle range of motion, which lead to tightness in the calf muscles, which then transfers abnormal forces into the bottom of the foot and is a primary cause of your plantar fasciitis. In that situation, you could massage, roll out, and stretch your calves all day long and it won’t result in a long term fix of the problem … the ankle mobility must first be resolved for the calf to loosen up and stay loose.
Want to find out which of the things on the list above might be causing your heel pain? You can do so for free. If you’re in the Austin area, click here to request a FREE in-person consultation with one of our heel-pain-specialist physical therapists.
Let’s look at some other causes on our list above …
Some people get confused when they read that tight hip flexors and weak hip muscles can have anything to do with plantar fasciitis. Tight hip flexors can lead to you shifting your weight more toward your toes when you’re standing, which results in an ongoing increase in the strain through the plantar fascia and calf muscles.
Weak hip muscles can contribute to excessive internal rotation of the legs with walking and running, which can contribute to over-pronation, which creates higher levels of strain through the arch and plantar fascia.
What If I Have a Heel Spur? Can Plantar Fasciitis Treatment Still Work With a Heel Spur?
In some cases, plantar fasciitis pain can actually be coming from a “heel spur” which is a bony growth off your heel bone (calcaneus). These can also be called “calcaneal spurs.” Making this diagnosis requires an x-ray, and unfortunately even an expert manual physical therapist can’t get rid of a heel spur with his/her hands.
HOWEVER, even when we’ve had patients with heel spurs, there are typically other factors aside from the bony growth that’s causing their pain. So addressing those other factors are a must if you’re going to fully resolve your heel pain, even if you have a heel spur.
We’ve even seen pain completely resolve with hands-on manual therapy techniques and changes in shoewear even though those techniques do not remove or change the actual bone spur. In fact, many people have heel spurs and don’t know it because they don’t all cause pain. In some cases though, if the heel spur is a primary driver of your symptoms, it may ultimately have to be removed if pain persists even after receiving good treatment.
So What Is The Best Plantar Fasciitis Treatment in Austin, Texas?
I’ve written all the above to make the point that every case of plantar fasciitis is different and therefore requires an expert clinician to identify all the various components of the problem. Missing even one part of the puzzle can be enough to keep treatment attempts from fully resolving your heel pain and the limitations it is placing on your life.
Depending on which factors are causing your heel pain, different types of practitioners will be best suited to help you get rid of the pain and back to the active lifestyle you desire here in Austin.
Important Side Note: It’s our opinion at Carter Physiotherapy that identifying all the different factors causing your pain and creating a solid plan for getting rid of it shouldn’t cost you a dime. If you’re in the Austin area, click here to request a FREE in-person consultation with one of our heel-pain-specialist physical therapists.
We are of course a little biased, but can honestly say that good physical therapy treatment and advice should be able to resolve at least 90% of plantar fasciitis cases without interventions from other providers (ex: steroid injections from a physician or surgery to remove a heel spur). Sometimes relief can be achieved quite quickly and other times it can take a large number of treatments, but most cases of heel pain are ultimately fixable with the right treatment.
A physical therapist who is also specialized in hands-on manual therapy is equipped with a massive number of potential treatment techniques and strategies. But not all physical therapy approaches are created equal so there are a few things you need to make sure of when seeking physical therapy, or any form of treatment for that matter:
- They are trained in, and use, hands-on manual therapy techniques as part of their treatment plans.
- They see very few patients per hour so they actually have the time to identify all the factors causing your pain AND the time to treat every one of those factors.
If your healthcare provider is not using some form of hands-on manual therapy, you are likely not getting everything you need to completely get rid of your heel pain. And if they are rushing from one patient to the next, seeing multiple patients per hour or multiple patients at one time, it’s impossible to give the highest quality of care. With how stubborn plantar fasciitis can be to fully resolve, you need high quality care and undivided attention in your treatment sessions.
At Carter Physiotherapy, treatment sessions are always 1-on-1 with a physical therapist certified in manual therapy, and we offer 30 and 60 minute treatment sessions at our clinic in Austin … allowing us all the time and focused attention we need to fully treat every aspect of your plantar fasciitis, and get you back to the exercise and activities you’re missing out on as quickly as possible.
We teach our patients everything they need to be doing on their own time and do not have patients come to the clinic to perform exercises they can do at home or the gym. Therapeutic exercises and stretches are a vital part of any plantar fasciitis treatment plan but we believe patients shouldn’t be spending time and money in the clinic doing things they can do on their own time. We also offer dry needling services which can occasionally be a key component of successful treatment for plantar fasciitis.
We also prefer that our patients are 100% confident that we can help before they begin treatment. For that reason, we offer FREE onsite consultations at our Austin physical therapy clinic. Call/text 512-693-8849 to request your consultation or click here to fill out a brief free-consultation request form.
What Are the Best Plantar Fasciitis Exercises and Plantar Fasciitis Stretches? What Plantar Fasciitis Treatments Can I Do Myself?
The video below provides a handful of plantar fasciitis stretches, exercises, and other self-treatment tools and resources. You’ll also learn strategies to keep your first few steps out of bed from being really painful and from worsening your plantar fasciitis tendon irritation.
***Please note that this is not a complete list of potential self-treatments nor is it likely that what’s included in the video will completely resolve your heel pain. Diagnosis and hands-on treatment by a qualified healthcare provider is necessary to get rid of almost all cases of plantar fasciitis.
In regards to what else can be done on your own, another question we often get from patients is “Should I get plantar fasciitis shoes?” This is typically referring to shoes with extra arch support. However, sometimes patients asking this question are actually referring to a type of “boot” that is worn overnight to prevent the muscles and fascia in the foot and calves from tightening up (The plantar fasciitis night boot and other forms of arch support and sandals are also described in the video above, and here is a link to a recommended night boot).
A plantar fasciitis night boot is something we suggest for pretty much every patient we have with heel pain. However, robust arch support is a tactic that may or may not be helpful. Some patients really feel improvement with arch support or custom orthotics, and others actually do better with minimal arch support. It’s strange but unfortunately we typically have to take a “try it and see” approach with footwear … patients try additional arch support and if it doesn’t help or seems to get worse, then we move to a more minimalist shoe type.
Don’t Let Plantar Fasciitis Keep You From Living An Active Austin Lifestyle
As our home page states, we help active people in Austin quickly recover from injury so they can keep playing their sport, exercising, and enjoying life. If plantar fasciitis or any form of heel and foot pain is keeping you from being as active as you’d like, let us help you get to the bottom of the issue and create a plan to get you back to the active lifestyle you deserve. If you’re in the Austin / Central Texas area, request a free consultation here or call/text us at 512-693-8849. If you prefer email, you can send us a message via our contact page here.