Plantar fasciitis accounts for about 15% of all foot symptoms requiring professional medical care. Although it is primarily associated with heel pain and stiffness, plantar fasciitis can also cause pain and discomfort in other parts of the body, including the knee.
Plantar fasciitis can affect people of all age groups and activity levels. Whether you’re an athlete, runner or someone who spends a lot of time on their feet, knowing the connection between plantar fasciitis and knee pain can help you find an effective treatment plan for your symptoms. In particular, physical therapy has shown to be an effective treatment plan for plantar fasciitis, leading to a faster recovery time than those who didn’t receive physical therapy.
What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis refers to inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot, from the heel to the toes. The plantar fascia helps support the arch of your foot and acts as a shock absorber when you walk or run.
You can develop plantar fasciitis as a result of an overuse injury, obesity, high arches or flat feet, tight calf muscles, or jobs or activities that involve a lot of walking or standing on hard surfaces. Your symptoms may also worsen after long periods of inactivity.
If you have plantar fasciitis, you may feel symptoms like the following:
- Pain in the heel or the bottom of the foot, especially when taking first steps in the morning or after sitting for long periods of time.
- Stiffness in the heel or the bottom of the foot.
- Swelling or redness in the heel or the bottom of the foot.
If your doctor has diagnosed you with plantar fasciitis, they may have recommended a treatment plan intended to improve your flexibility and strength in your foot and ankle. Treatment options for plantar fasciitis include rest, ice, stretching, physical therapy, orthotic inserts, and in severe cases, corticosteroid injections or surgery. Your physical therapist can help you recover from plantar fasciitis symptoms by realigning your foot and releasing tension in your plantar fascia.
Why does plantar fasciitis often cause knee pain?
The plantar fascia is connected to other parts of your lower body, specifically your knee. As a result, when your plantar fascia is inflamed, it can cause tension and stress on your knee joint and the surrounding muscles and tendons, resulting in knee pain and other symptoms.
Additionally, inflammation related to plantar fasciitis can make it painful to place weight on your heel, making you over-rely on your knee joint while walking. Doing so can cause you to overuse your knee joint, misaligning your leg and leading you to limp or develop an irregular walking pattern while active.
It’s important to recognize that you may be feeling knee pain for reasons other than your plantar fasciitis. Your physical therapist can help you determine whether your plantar fasciitis is truly the cause of your knee pain. Either way, physical therapy can help ease your knee pain by addressing the underlying causes of your pain and working to improve the strength and flexibility of the muscles and tendons in your knees, feet, and hips.
During your physical therapy sessions, your physical therapist can:
- Introduce you to strengthening exercises — Your physical therapy treatment may include exercises that stretch and strengthen your plantar fascia, calf muscles, knee joint, and Achilles tendon. With improved strength, your balance and coordination can also improve over time.
- Stretch your plantar fascia — Stretching your heel can improve blood circulation and release built-up tension in your plantar fascia. Stretching your heel can also help release tension in the tissue connected to your knee. This tissue may be tightened as a result of your plantar fasciitis inflammation, and releasing that tension can help decrease your knee pain.
- Try healing modalities — Physical therapists can use specific techniques to target areas of tension in your feet. Dry needling, for example, can directly stimulate your plantar fascia and knee tissue and encourage them to release tension. In addition, manual therapy techniques allow physical therapists to apply calculated pressure to trigger points in both your foot and knee.
Back in Motion can help ease your plantar fasciitis symptoms, including knee pain
Dealing with plantar fasciitis pain alone can be frustrating. Combine it with knee pain, and it can be difficult to move. Thankfully, physical therapists are well versed in the connection between plantar fasciitis and knee pain. Their knowledge of strengthening techniques can help you restore your mobility as you heal from plantar fasciitis-related knee pain.
Contact us today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.