The Best Treatments for Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a common foot ailment affecting an estimated 2 million adults each year according to the American Physical Therapy Association. (ref-1,p.6,para-1) The classic symptom is pain in the heel, especially first thing in the morning when you get out of bed. The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that supports the foot, connecting the heel to the toes. Injury to the plantar fascia occurs due to overuse or too much weight. Athletes -- especially runners -- are often affected. Overweight or obese middle aged women are also at high risk. (ref-1,p.6,para-1; ref-5,p.1,Introduction)

Daily stretching is one of the best treatments for plantar fasciitis. Credit: Kane Skennar/Photodisc/Getty Images

Stretching the Plantar Fascia

The preferred treatment for plantar fasciitis is stretching the plantar fascia. A survey of 117 orthopedic surgeons in the July 2008 issue of "Foot & Ankle International" revealed that stretching which targets the arch of the foot is the preferred treatment. (ref-6,Conclusion; ref-4,p4.para-1 and para-2) From a seated position, cross the affected foot over the opposite knee. Grasp the toes and gently pull them back, creating a stretch in the arch. Massage the arch with the other hand while you hold the stretch for 1 minute. Rest for 30 seconds and repeat for 3 sets, 2 or 3 times daily. (ref-4,p.4,figure-4)

Stretching the Calf

Stretching the calf has been demonstrated to improve plantar fasciitis. (ref-5,p.5,Stretching) Sit on the floor with legs extended. Place a towel around the ball of the foot. Pull back on the towel, keeping the leg straight. Hold for 30 seconds, then release for 30 seconds. Complete 3 sets. You can also stretch the calf by leaning into a wall with the affected foot extended behind you, knee straight and heel flat on the floor. Or stand at the edge of a step or curb and allow the injured heel to drop down. ref-2,p.9 ref-1,p.12, paragraph-2 under Stretching and p.13, 1st full paragraph)

Lose Weight, Modify Activities and Strengthen

For overweight and obese people with plantar fasciitis, the American College of Physicians recommends weight loss in conjunction with stretching. Strengthening exercises for the calf and foot may be helpful for de-conditioned individuals. Athletes will need to modify activity to allow the injury time to heal. Avoid high impact activities like running and jumping. Good substitutions include cycling, rowing and swimming. Plantar fasciitis is often slow to heal but usually resolves within a year or 2. (ref-2,p.7,para-3 and p.15 last bullet)

(ref-2,p.7,table-3 and p.8,1st paragraph)

Anti-Inflammatory Medication

According to a January 2012 report by the American College Physicians in the "Annals of Internal Medicine," plantar fasciitis was historically treated using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. However, evidence now indicates that plantar fasciitis is degenerative rather than inflammatory. Anti-inflammatory drugs may be used in the early stages to manage acute pain, but are no longer advised for longer term treatment of the condition. (ref-2,p.7,paragraph-2)

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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