In our last article, “What is Plantar Fasciitis?,” we described the classic plantar fasciitis symptoms, common causes of heel pain and tips for prevention. For anyone dealing with plantar fasciitis heel pain, ongoing inflammation in the fascia makes everyday activity painful, uncomfortable and frustrating. Conventional plantar fasciitis treatments include non-invasive options, as well as medical procedures ranging from injections to surgery. In this article, we will break down the most commonly recommended plantar fasciitis treatments to help you identify the pros and cons of these treatments and the typical results you can expect.
Unfortunately, each of the conventional treatments listed below has limited effectiveness, so the average person normally moves from one treatment to the next. According to WebMD.com, “most people recover completely within a year,” which means that someone searching for heel pain relief may have to try multiple methods over a long period of time, during which they may spend lots of money, agonize with daily pain and generally suffer a reduced quality of life.
The goals of a plantar fasciitis treatment plan should include:
- Providing pain relief in the shortest time possible
- Minimizing disruption to our daily lives (e.g. minimum inconvenience, and enable a timely return to normal activities)
- Creating conditions which enable the body to achieve a lasting recovery
- Minimize the financial burden (i.e. total spend)
Initial Plantar Fasciitis Treatment
Many people suffering from plantar fasciitis will first try simple home remedies, such as applying ice to the heel, or taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs), such as Advil®. While some users may experience a degree of relief, due to the severity of plantar fasciitis pain many sufferers report that NSAIDs barely take the edge off their pain.
Other common “first steps” include taping the foot with conventional therapeutic elastic tapes (e.g. Kinesio) or rigid athletic tapes. If taped properly, a user may experience some pain relief and support to the injured fascia. However, therapeutic elastic tapes were designed to support muscles and other soft tissues. It is critical to note that kinesio tape was originally designed to provide 140% elasticity (the same elasticity as human skin). This ease of elongation and low rebound quality is well suited for supporting soft tissue and muscle, but lacks effectiveness in supporting the much tougher plantar fascia. Rigid athletic tapes can provide support temporarily but have been shown to lose effectiveness within less than 30 minutes of use as the product stretches and the adhesives slip. According to published studies, taping has not been demonstrated to be a cure for plantar fasciitis. The fact is that both of these categories of taping product are more of a general purpose in nature, and they were not designed specifically for the difficult task of managing plantar fasciitis stress.
Those with plantar fasciitis may try one of the above approaches for a month or longer before realizing that there is no significant improvement. In their search for other plantar fasciitis treatment options, they often seek out advice from medical or sports websites, including blogs and forums. Most-web-based resources tend to direct visitors to the “next steps” listed below.
That Didn’t Work…What’s Next?
Often, these users will be steered into night-time stretching devices, which are designed and marketed specifically as a plantar fasciitis treatment. The biggest problem with this approach is that stretching is most effective as a preventative method, and stretching damaged tissue is an indirect treatment and has not been demonstrated to provide rapid results. Furthermore, while stretching is beneficial to healthy fascia, it may be counterproductive during recovery because it can lead to the re-injury of newly formed tissue. Nevertheless, this treatment is often mistakenly promoted to those with fascia inflammation, and stretching devices are readily available locally or online.
Another problem with stretching devices is that they are very inconvenient, and many users find it difficult to sleep while wearing the device. Moreover, during the active, load-bearing hours of the day, these devices do not protect the the fascia from re-injury, which can often leave the user back at square one.
We recommend stretching devices only if you are prone to bouts of plantar fasciitis, but are NOT currently suffering from heel pain. This will help improve calf flexibility which can aid in preventing recurrence of heel pain due to PF.
Other treatments that are commonly recommended include heel cushion products or over-the-counter orthotic devices, such as soft or rigid arch supports. Once again, these products are only partially effective at best. These products are ineffective during the propulsion phase (“push-off”) of the walking cycle. Not supporting the fascia in this critical phase makes it vulnerable and often contributes to a continuous cycle of micro-trauma, which in turn prevents a timely recovery.
Depending on the severity of heel pain being experienced, the mix of treatments described can stretch over many months and still fail to deliver adequate results. This lack of positive progress often frustrates those with heel pain, and they give up on trying any new treatments. In some cases, the prospect of incurring additional cost plays some role in this decision. Instead, they revert back to whichever combination of the above methods seemed to deliver the most reduction in pain and wait it out.
Time for a Second Opinion?
A small percentage (estimated to be less than 20%) of those suffering from plantar fasciitis heel pain will eventually seek medical care, only to find that the medical community has limited options available. We’ve listed these here.
Non-invasive Treatment Options:
- NSAIDs – Sound familiar? As the most “conservative” treatment option available, doctors and nurses will often advise that one use an NSAID to dull the pain.
- Padding and Strapping – Usually felt padding applied during a consultation with a podiatrist. This is an “apply-once” treatment that must be kept dry and worn for a number of days. Because of the foot’s shape and the stiffness of the padding, it may be difficult to put on certain types of shoes. Just as with other tape products, this technique may start losing effectiveness as materials stretch and adhesives slip.
- Scraping (Graston technique) – A painful physical therapy procedure that consists of “scraping” the plantar scar tissue with a handheld device (very firm handheld device-to-skin contact). The goal is to break down the scar tissue externally, and the patient’s level of inflammation and scar tissue buildup can make this an excruciating plantar fasciitis treatment option.
- Stretching Devices/Stretching Exercises – Not advisable for someone currently suffering from plantar fasciitis as it can can set back the healing process. Excellent when you are not currently suffering from plantar fasciitis to avoid a recurrence or extend the time between bouts.
- Bed Rest – A great treatment option, but the most limiting and inconvenient – who can afford to remain in bed?
- Night-time Stretching Devices – Uncomfortable to sleep in, and does nothing to protect fascia from re-injury during normal activities. May be good when used with health fascia to extend the time between bouts by improving flexibility.
- Orthotics – Transition into orthotics while suffering from plantar fasciitis can be very painful as the rigid structure of the orthotics often adds pressure to the injured fascia. It is much easier to adjust to these devices when you are not suffering from an inflamed fascia. However, proper support to the biomechanics of foot (such as can provided by correctly fitted orthotics) is one of keys to avoiding a returned bout of plantar fasciitis.
- Steroid Injections – Injections are directed at the damaged fascia, meaning that the area is already inflamed. This can make the injections extremely painful. These injections are typically administered as a series, repeated a few weeks apart, with a maximum of three to four injections typically being allowed.
- Immobilizing Boots – These devices protect the fascia and address the root cause, but only when worn compliantly (used throughout all load-bearing hours of the day). However, they compromise mobility, limit activities and are cumbersome and inconvenient.
- Surgery (Endoscopic plantar fasciotomy) – This is the most invasive plantar fasciitis treatment option available. Cost, time to recovery and associated risks should all be carefully considered prior to any type of surgery.
As you can see, the basic toolkit from a medical practitioner’s standpoint doesn’t offer a convenient, fool-proof, and risk-free method for helping one overcome plantar fasciitis. That’s where the FasciaDerm Heel Pain Relief System comes in.
Got Plantar Fasciitis? Get FasciaDerm
For the plantar fascia to have the best conditions for recovery, it should be protected from excessive tensile stress during the entire walking cycle, and through all active, load-bearing hours of the day, regardless of whether the user is wearing footwear or not. It is only in protecting the fascia in this manner that one can expect to halt the continuous cycle of re-injury, and true progress toward lasting recovery can begin. Remember the clear, specific plantar fasciitis treatment goals we outlined above? They included:
- fast pain relief
- minimal disruption or discomfort
- lasting recovery
- low cost
Only FasciaDerm meets all of the above criteria, delivering results that no other plantar fasciitis treatment can match, and at an unbeatable low cost. FasciaDerm was designed specifically for the treatment of plantar fasciitis, so every characteristic – from precisely-engineered support, to ergonomic fit and convenience of application – was designed to solve the problem of managing plantar stress without compromising effectiveness. For these reasons, doctors and sports medicine professionals are using FasciaDerm to help their patients and athletes get healthy and back to normal.
“My Plantar Fasciitis appears with no warning – In the past it has been visits to the Podiatrist, steroid shots, and wearing 2 pair of of socks and sneakers to the office for a few months before the pain subsides. I heard about this product from a friend and decided to give it a try. In just 2 days my heel pain was greatly diminished and completely gone after approximately 1 week. The instructions were easy to follow and the straps were thin and flesh colored which worked great under stockings for work. Awesome design and worked fabulously. No More Foot Pain !!”
Get off the “treatment treadmill” (or avoid it altogether) with the FasciaDerm Heel Pain Relief System. FasciaDerm is 100% guaranteed to reduce plantar fasciitis heel pain when used as directed.