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What is that annoying pain in the arch? Could it be plantar fasciitis?

Have you ever woken up in the morning and as soon as you put weight down on your foot, you feel the most excruciating pain in your heel or arch of the foot? Does the same thing happen when you get up after sitting for a while? You may have plantar fasciitis.

What is the plantar fascia?

The plantar fascia is a flat band of thick tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot from the heel bone to our toes and it supports the arch of the foot. Plantar fasciitis is when the fascia becomes inflamed or irritated. This can happen with repetitive overloading of the tissue at its attachment on the heel, causing changes to the integrity of the fascia making it inflamed and begin to deteriorate.

Plantar fascia anatomy
Plantar fascia anatomy

Common signs & symptoms

Some common symptoms include pain and stiffness, or an ache or burning sensation in the heel, most commonly during the first steps in the morning or after periods of inactivity. This typically happens because at rest, the foot is relaxed and the body will begin laying down new tissue over the irritated fascia. Once we step down and put tension through the fascia, the fragile tissue that was recently laid down will rip, causing significant pain. There can also be pain after periods of intense activity, due to overloading of the plantar fascia. Predisposing factors include poor footwear, foot arch problems, sudden weight gain, intense physical activity, and decreased lower extremity flexibility.

Inflammation of the plantar fascia
Inflammation of the plantar fascia

How is plantar fasciitis treated?

Plantar fasciitis responds well to conservative treatment approaches including rest, ice, proper footwear and a stretching and strengthening program. Some home remedies may prove to be successful such as calf and/or plantar fascia stretching, as well as rolling a tennis ball or golf ball underneath the foot. A physiotherapist can also do hands on manual therapy on your heel and foot to increase mobility, as well as apply modalities, such as ultrasound or interferential current, for pain. Applying a taping at the arch of the foot or using an orthotic device can be beneficial in off-loading the plantar fascia and can provide some symptomatic relief. Addressing the cause of the problem and receiving the appropriate treatment will help you get rid of that annoying pain in the arch.

Massage with a tennis ball
Massage with a tennis ball
Jason Bellefleur
Jason Bellefleur is a multi-award-winning physiotherapist. Most recently, he was recognized as a 2016 Ottawa Forty Under 40 recipient and received numerous awards from the Orléans Chamber of Commerce (the 2011 Young Business Person of the Year, the 2012 Healthcare Professional of the Year and the 2014 Business Person of the Year awards). Jason is proud to be an Orléans resident and to raise his family in a bilingual community. He enthusiastically promotes local business within the Orléans area and frequently supports and participates in local events. Jason was recognized for his community involvement by receiving the Orleans 150 Community Builder award in 2017 by Ottawa-Orléans MPP Marie-France Lalonde. Jason firmly believes in high-quality one-on-one physiotherapy interventions. His treatment approach emphasizes hands-on intervention, continued client education, and active involvement by the individual to help them reach their full potential. By opening a clinic that offers 'Higher Standards of Care,' Jason wants his patients to feel confident that they receive the highest level of patient care available. As a result, he is also preventing injury and helping to improve their health and well-being.

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