If you have ever experienced heel pain caused by Plantar Fasciitis then you will understand how disabling the condition can be. Ten percent of the population will suffer this condition in their lifetime – usually between the ages of 40 to 60.
Typically patients might experience pain under their foot at the heel. This could be worse at the end of the day, during the day while on their feet, or first thing in the morning. The pain can be described as like sharp needles in the feet or like walking over broken glass. This pain can occur acutely after sudden increased loading such as running, or can gradually worsen over time if the patient is on their feet a lot throughout the day.
Even with the standard treatment of massage, stretching and orthotics, people with this condition can have pain that lasts for months. This impacts productivity and general quality of life- no one wants to be in pain.
Degeneration not inflammation causes Plantar Fasciitis
Encouragingly there is new research coming out of Denmark which provides evidence for a new modality in treating this heel pain. It has been found that Plantar Fasciitis is not caused by inflammation- as its name might suggest. Instead the condition would be more correctly termed a fasciopathy because it is degeneration from overloading causing thickening of the plantar fascia, rather than inflammation. This means that anti-inflammatory measures will not fix the problem.
Michael Rathleff and his team at the University of Aalborg have used this understanding to develop a program that has been shown to improve patient outcomes. This includes activity modification and specific exercises to slowly increase loading of the plantar fascia and lower leg. This improves the strength of the plantar fascia and has been shown to improve pain levels in patients when compared to standard treatment.
This exercise and rehabilitation program can be tailored to suit patients in all phases of Plantar Fasciitis. Both fit runners and less than fit people who work on their feet all day can benefit from this approach.
I’m excited about this new approach to Plantar Fasciitis and tendinitis in general. If you are suffering from heel pain, there is an evidence-based approach that can help you. Come into the clinic and we can give you specific advice on how you can modify your activities to decrease load on your plantar fascia. We can also take you through the exercise program that has been shown to increase your strength and improve pain.
If you are interested in reading more about this study, you can access the research paper here.