The True Cause of Plantar Fasciitis

Your alarm goes off and you roll to the side of the bed. You’re still half asleep when your feet hit the floor. As soon as you stand up hot searing pain stabs you in the heel. You give a startled cry and grab the bed for support. In your half stupor you forgot about that nagging plantar fasciitis that’s been plaguing you for months.

It’s Not Just You – It Hurts Like the Dickens

If you have not had this experience, then it’s hard to appreciate just how painful plantar fasciitis can be. The plantar fascia is a layer of tough connective tissue that covers the bottom of the foot. It spans the arch of the foot and so is on tension when we are standing. Plantar fasciitis is a painful inflammation in this tissue that can be quite debilitating as it causes significant pain when we put weight on our feet.

Traditional treatment for plantar fasciitis involves direct treatment of the foot. Things like ice and ultrasound are common, as well as the use of over-the-counter arch supports or custom orthotics. This is all to reduce inflammation and pain in the foot. But the question begs, why did this happen in the first place? Why one foot and not the other? (It can happen in both feet but is more common in one.) Why now?

The Real Problem Isn’t the Foot

Answering these important questions is what will lead to finding the true cause of the problem. The foot pain is just a symptom of a problem elsewhere. So what really causes plantar fasciitis? The most common cause is poor alignment of the calf muscles.

The Achilles tendon is what attaches the calf muscles to the heel bone. From here the plantar fasciitis forms essentially an extension of the Achilles tendon onto the bottom of the foot. Most treatment regimes for plantar fasciitis will involve some sort of calf stretching. The problem with just stretching is it doesn’t address an alignment problem. For example, if the calf muscles are twisted towards the outside of the leg, then doing a calf muscle stretch such as hanging your heels off of a stair will only stretch certain parts of the calf muscles and not the whole thing. The part that is pushed off to the side doesn’t get stretched.

Poor alignment of the calf muscles can lead to plantar fasciitis as the load is not evenly spread over the entire width of the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia when things are twisted. So every time you use your calf muscles or put weight on your foot there is excessive stress on one area. This is what leads to the inflammation and pain.

The Cascading Chain Reaction

Now if you’re getting the hang of this chain reaction thing, you might be wondering why the calf muscles are rotated in the first place. It you were already thinking this, then call me. I could use another good physiotherapist. When I see people who suffer from plantar fasciitis and have calf muscles that are not properly aligned, there is often a history of some sort of incident. Maybe a slip on an icy sidewalk, a twisted knee while playing volleyball, or a sore hip after doing a lot of gardening.

Muscles don’t get out of alignment just to be annoying. They do so in order to compensate for something somewhere else in the body. These previous incidents have lead to altered movement patterns throughout the entire leg (if not the entire body) with the final result being pain in the bottom of the foot. Finding and treating the entire chain reaction is what is necessary if we are to deal with the problem once and for all.

So don’t live with chronic pain in your feet that makes you dread getting out of bed every day. That early morning alarm is annoying enough on its own without adding pain to the picture. Deal with the entire chain and live pain free.

COVID Safety

Please note that three layered masks continue to be mandatory for everyone entering the clinic despite the lifting of this requirement by the Ontario government. We continue to prioritize your health by minimizing the number of people in the clinic, screening for illness, and cleaning regularly. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns. We look forward to serving your health care needs.