Updated: Aug 13, 2018
Plantar fasciitis is probably the most common foot-related problem to walk (or sometimes limp) into a podiatrist's office. People have often already tried different treatments at home prior to seeking medical help, which may include stretching exercises, shoe inserts, and taking anti-inflammatory medications. When timed and done appropriately, these methods do work. When the pain lingers, though, medical advice is finally sought.
In addition to asking what further alternative treatment options are available, I often get asked, "Will this ever go away?" My answer is usually "yes, but it may take months." Unfortunately, it is difficult to put a timeline on how long one will have plantar fasciitis symptoms. The reason for this is that people have suffered for different lengths of time (which may cause varying degrees of tissue trauma/damage), the severity of their pain may vary upon presentation, and how they treat it outside the doctor's office is not the same from one patient to the next. Fortunately, people rarely have to undergo surgery for plantar fasciitis.
Below is an extensive list of the ways plantar fasciitis can be treated. In my opinion, it is recommended and important to seek medical help sooner rather than later to make sure you are treating the correct condition, you are treating it early on, and to help avoid spending hundreds of dollars on useless devices that may not be appropriate and you may not benefit from using.
Rest, Modification of activities, & Immobilization
Avoid higher impact activities (e.g. walking, running, jumping) and switch to lower impact activities (e.g. swimming, biking) until symptoms improve or resolve. Any activities that you participate in that cause pain to the affected limb will only prolong, or inhibit, the healing process. Depending on the extent of the injury and the amount of pain you are in, will determine how aggressive you need to be with resting and/or immobilizing the extremity and how long it will take to return to regular activities. This may require wearing a walking boot or walking cast to allow the ligament to heal quicker.
Icing & anti-inflammatory medications
Icing one to two times daily (especially after exercise) can help decrease inflammation. (**Avoid icing if you have neuropathy/numbness or poor circulation). Anti-inflammatory medications can also help with inflammation, but should not be used chronically.
You should wear good, supportive tennis or walking shoes (e.g. New Balance, Brooks, ASICS, Saucony) as much as possible and avoid barefoot walking and use of flat shoes and flip-flops.
These are devices that go into your shoes to help support the plantar fascia, along with cushion, support, and control abnormal motion(s) of your feet. They can also help with the alignment of the lower extremity more proximally, including your knees, hips, and back. They can be purchased off-the-shelf or be custom-made to fit your feet.
This is a device that you wear on the affected lower extremity at night. It helps hold the foot at a 90-degree angle to the leg, which keeps the ligament elongated while you sleep at night. This can help with the “first steps in the morning pain.”
Timing of these exercises should be discussed with your doctor. With your doctor’s approval, you can either start the below exercises, or get a referral to a trained physical therapist to help assist you in your rehab.
Surgery is consider if you continue to have pain after several months of failed conservative treatment. The surgery involves cutting part of the ligament. Recovery after surgery may last weeks to months. It is important to wear good supportive shoes and orthotics after surgery to prevent recurrence.
Combination therapy tends to be the most affective, including the avoidance of activities that cause pain or reproducibility of your symptoms. In time, the pain goes away in the vast majority of people with only a small subset having to undergo surgery. If you think you may be suffering with plantar fasciitis, contact the doctor for a consultation.
DISCLAIMER: The above information is meant for educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Should you have questions or concerns related to your health, please contact the doctor, or your own healthcare professional.