Heel pain (or Plantar Fasciitis) is the most common foot complaint, experienced by thousands of Australians every day. Plantar Fasciitis usually causes pain under the heel and sometimes pain under the arch of the foot. In Latin Plantar Fasciitis means "inflammation of the plantar fascia", which is a thick, fibrous ligament that runs under the foot from the heel to the toes. It forms the arch of the foot and functions as a natural shock-absorber. Unlike muscle, the plantar fascia is not very elastic and is very limited in its capacity to stretch or elongate. Therefore when too much traction is placed on the plantar fascia-tearing will occur, resulting in irritation, inflammation and pain.
What is a Heel Spur?
A heel spur is a bony growth of the heel bone. The reason for the development of a spur is that the body 'responds' to the constant traction and pulling from the plantar fascia ligament away from the heel bone. The ligament itself cannot become any longer, so instead the bone will 'assist' the ligament and grow. It should be noted that calceneal spurs are not painful. They are not the problem. Pain is only caused because of inflammation of the tissue surrounding the heel spur. Most people suffering from Plantar Fasciitis do not have a heel spur! Spurs take many years to develop.
Heel pain that is more intense with your first steps out of bed in the morning or after sitting for a while. The reason for this is that during rest our muscles and ligaments tend to shorten and tighten up. The tightening of the plantar fascia means more traction on the ligament making the tissue even more sensitive. With sudden weight-bearing the tissue is being traumatised, resulting in a stabbing pain.
After walking around for a while the ligament warms up, becomes a little bit more flexible and adapts itself, making the pain go way entirely or becoming more of a dull ache. However, after walking a long distance or standing for hours the pain will come back again. To prevent the sudden sharp pain in the morning or after sitting, it is important to give the feet a little warm-up first with some simple stretches.
What are the main causes of Plantar Fasciitis?
There are many different factors which can cause the ligament to become overstretched including:
- Over-use: too much sports, running, walking or standing for long periods
- Weight gain: excess weight places great pressure on the bones, nerves, muscles and ligaments in the feet, which sooner or later will have consequences.
- Age: as we get older ligaments become tighter & shorter and muscles become weaker; the ideal circumstances for foot problems
- Unsupportive footwear: shoes with no support as well as thongs affect our walking pattern
- Walking barefoot: especially on hard surfaces like concrete or tiles
- Low arch/flat feet or over-pronation when the foot is not properly aligned, the bones unlock and cause the foot to roll inward. With every step taken your foot pronates and elongates, stretching the plantar fascia and causing inflammation and pain at the attachment of the plantar fascia into the heel bone. Re-alignment of the foot should therefore an important part of the treatment regime.
- Shockwave therapy
- Trigger-point massage
- Night splint
- Cortisone-steroid injections
There’s a lot you can do yourself before seeking any specialist medical treatment:
- Resting the foot and avoiding barefoot walking
- Foot and leg stretches for plantar fascia, calf muscles and Achilles tendon.
- Ice and Anti-inflammatories
- Orthotic insoles to re-align the foot
How can chiropractic help?
Chiropractic care is a very effective treatment for plantar fasciitis as well as the pain that is caused by the condition. Chiropractic for plantar fasciitis involves a very precise technique that involves adjustments to the feet and ankles as well as spinal alignment. This provides several benefits including reducing stress to the plantar fascia, promoting healing, pain management.
Chiropractic adjustments made to the heel and foot take the pressure off of the plantar fascia, allowing it to relax. The chiropractor may also recommend specific exercises that stretch the ligament and help it heal. They may also advise the patient of lifestyle changes as well as nutritional adjustments that can help with the pain and condition. Chiropractic is a very effective way to manage pain throughout the body. Spinal adjustments allow better communication between the brain and nerves, allowing the central nervous system to function more effectively. Condition specific adjustments speak to the root of the problem, not just the symptoms. This means a more effective form of pain management that is longer lasting. Chiropractic’s whole body approach helps the person realign their body properly so that they stand and walk properly. This helps them avoid further injury and discomfort.
Plantar fasciitis can take several months to heal, but by adding chiropractic treatments to your recovery plan, you can feel better faster while more effectively managing your pain. Regular chiropractic treatments can also keep the condition from becoming chronic. By working with your chiropractor and following their recommendations you can reduce your pain and shorten your healing time.