PHYSICAL THERAPY FOR FOOT PAIN
There are several types of foot injuries that a patient can sustain or develop that foot injury treatment can solve. With as much pressure and walking we do on them everyday, chronic issues can develop from poor habits, excessive loading of tendons and joints, and even poor footwear. Additionally, our feet contain over 25% of the body’s bones in order to support our body weights and allow us to walk on different terrains.
The structure of the foot is rather complex but its main objective is to provide support, balance and mobility from which we can launch our extremities and trunk to perform all sorts of powerful, graceful and enduring activities. However, feet need to stay structurally and intrinsically strong: when components of the foot are put through repetitive stress and not properly adapted through conditioning, soft tissues fail and microdamage ensues. Systems up the kinetic chain into the hip and knee also need to be structurally sound - and strong.
Foot injuries that are chronic in nature can cause significant disability and hinder our ability to walk. And as certain sports become more competitive and popular, foot injuries are increasing more every year.
The following are some very common injuries that we see at Stride Strong's Portland Physicial Therapy Clinics and a summary of what we can do to help rehabilitate these injuries:
Plantar Fasciitis Therapy
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the plantar fascia, which is a sheet of fibrous soft tissue that cover the bottom of our foot from the heel to the balls of your toes. It is tough and fibrous; and makes up the windlass mechanism of the foot - a spring-like effect, that when wound up, stores potential energy that can be released further up the kinetic chain to contribute to powerful motions like propulsion and jumping.
Plantar fasciitis happens when this sheet of fibrous tissue is overstrained. Typically a load has been given to it too frequently to the point of tissue breakdown - such in the case of long-distance running.
Plantar fasciitis treatment involves manual therapy to ease soft tissue pain and reduce soft tissue tension, and exercise therapy to strengthen the intrinsic muscles of the foot. A physical therapist should also closely examine the mechanics of the knee and hip, because bad gait mechanics and poor strength can easily contribute to poor energy distribution in the leg and strain the plantar fascia. Occasionally, adding support in the form of low-dye arch taping or over-the-counter orthotics will also help supporting this structure.
Bunion Pain Treatment
Bunions are chronically deformed first metatarsal joints - specifically, the great toe of your foot. They are a perfect example of how modern-day footwear has contributed to the deformity and laziness of feet.
Tapered shoes cause a compression effect on the bones of the foot, that, over time, induce this deformity to slowly progress. Bunions can be painful, and most times contribute to bad biomechanics in the rest of the foot. Foot muscles weaken, and so does the foot’s ability to mold over different terrains. In some extreme cases, bunion foot surgery is required in which bunion surgery therapy would assist in a successful recovery.
Other than surgery, bunion pain therapy can be quite effective in reducing the progression of bunion formation. Via joint mobilization, and soft tissue mobilization of the foot, we can coax the foot into more improved joint angles for healthy return to proper foot mechanics. Strengthening foot intrinsics also allows a one-two punch approach and prevents further weakening of the foot structure. Consult with your physical therapist how you can modify footwear choices to prevent bunions from becoming more unsightly.
Heel Spur Therapy
Usually confused with plantar fasciitis, heel spurs are a common occurrence in the population and need not indicate that there is something pathological happening in the foot. Some patients are asymptomatic, though majority of patients with plantar fasciitis do present with a heel spur on X-Ray.
Because heel spur pain presents itself much like plantar fasciitis pain, the plan of care is very similar to treating plantar fasciitis. For a successful heel spur treatment, the goal is to ensure pliability of soft tissue around the heel and the calf complex, and to improve structure in the foot to reduce irritation and inflammation of the heel spur.
Achilles Injury Treatment
Achilles injuries are very common with basketball players and runners being that they are typically associated with jumping activities. (To be even more specific, they are actually “landing” injuries, as athletes land on the weak and tight achilles after a jump.) Some achilles injuries are sudden in onset, with the worse case being a complete rupture. Other achilles injuries are chronic in nature, and form from overuse rather than trauma.
Achilles injury therapy can help with soft tissue pain, like from achilles tendinitis, and soft tissue remodeling following an achilles injury. Initial phases of treatment goal on reducing pain and inflammation, and PT sessions progress to both stretching and strengthening the achilles and gastrocnemius complex (the calf). Additionally, since weak quadriceps and a poor ability to load the leg with eccentric forces can cause undue loading of the achilles, quadriceps strengthening must be incorporated into the treatment plan.
Our Physical Therapists at Stride Strong Physical Therapy evaluate and treat patients one-on-one for 45 minute to 1 hour sessions, so that we are to give the needed attention to fully rehabilitate foot injuries.
Not all injuries should be treated simply at the site of pain, but a skilled physical therapist must be able to identify the causes of the injury - and this often requires us to pan out and view the whole body as a movement system. At Stride Strong Physical Therapy, we are able to perform in-depth gait analyses that allow us to hone in on weak structures that contribute to foot pain and chronic injuries. Maybe that’s why folks end up seeing us after their first physical therapists failed to catch what we’re able to detect.
Injuries in the foot often hint to a weakness of another larger structure up the kinetic chain, into the knee or hips. During our foot injury therapy we take the time to educate patients on how to modify their activity levels and footwear to promote long-term gains in prevent re-injury. If you are suffering from foot problems, don’t hesitate and waste time - call us and come visit one of our convenient locations in Beaverton or Hillsboro today!