Plantar Fasciitis: Can a Tens Machine help?

By Med-Fit UK Content Team  .  Last Updated Wednesday, 24th January 2024

What is Plantar Fasciitis

Heel pain stems from a variety of factors, including issues with nerves, bones, and tissues in the foot, often accompanied by conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. If an exact diagnosis is lacking, healthcare professionals may refer to it as plantar heel pain. At the core of this discomfort is the plantar fascia, a robust band of tissue running along the sole of the foot. 

Originating from the heel and extending along the arch, it fans out to connect with the base of each toe. The plantar fascia plays a pivotal role in stabilizing the foot during walking and acting as a shock absorber. When this structure is compromised, it triggers pain in the heel, and sometimes radiates to the foot's arch.

Plantar fasciitis, a prevalent source of heel pain, involves inflammation of this tissue band. The plantar fascia firmly attaches to the heel bone (calcaneus) and the base of the toes, crucially supporting the foot's arch and facilitating normal foot mechanics while walking.

During weight-bearing activities such as standing or walking, the plantar fascia experiences increased tension and stress. Likewise, pushing off on the ball of the foot and toes elevates this tension. Both movements are integral to regular walking or running. However, with overuse or the passage of time, the plantar fascia loses some of its elasticity and resilience, rendering it susceptible to irritation during routine daily activities.

What causes Plantar Fasciitis

 Excessive pressure on the band of tissue along the sole of the foot can lead to plantar fasciitis, a condition with specific risk factors:
  • Being overweight or obese.
  • Having high arches or being flat-footed.
  • Engaging in regular high-impact activities like running, jumping, or dancing, with around one in 10 regular runners developing plantar fasciitis.
  • Running or standing on hard surfaces elevates the risk.
  • Prolonged periods on your feet, such as in jobs that involve standing or walking all day.
  • Wearing worn-out trainers lacking shock absorption.
  • Pregnancy, due to hormonal changes and temporary weight gain, can trigger plantar fasciitis.

The plantar fascia, a vital band of connective tissue linking the heel bone to the toe base, provides arch support and absorbs walking-induced shock. Tension and stress on the fascia can cause tiny tears, leading to irritation or inflammation, though the precise cause of plantar fasciitis remains unclear in many cases.

Various factors can irritate or damage the plantar fascia and instigate plantar fasciitis:

  • Prolonged periods of standing for work.
  • Participation in sports.
  • Exercise or work on rigid surfaces like warehouse floors or sidewalks.
  • Inadequate stretching or warming up before exercise.
  • Wearing footwear that doesn't provide adequate foot support, such as flip flops or flat, flexible sneakers.
  • Walking or standing barefoot at home.

Certain health conditions are also associated with plantar fasciitis:

  • High-arched feet.
  • Flat feet.
  • Obesity or significant weight gain in a short period.

Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis

  • The primary indication of plantar fasciitis manifests as discomfort localized in the heel or occasionally extending to the foot's arch. This discomfort tends to intensify particularly when transitioning from a prolonged period of rest or inactivity to standing and walking.
  • Extended periods of being on one's feet, engaging in extended walks, prolonged standing, or extended running can also exacerbate this painful sensation. Initially, the pain may present as a sharp and acute sensation, gradually subsiding as movement and activity commence.

Treatments for Plantar Fasciitis

 Recovery from plantar fasciitis typically occurs within a few months through conservative treatment methods, including icing the affected area, engaging in stretching exercises, and modifying or refraining from activities that exacerbate the pain.

Some treatments via Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers

  • such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) 
  • Naproxen sodium (Aleve), can effectively alleviate the pain and inflammation associated with plantar fasciitis.

Therapeutic Approaches: Several therapeutic options are available to alleviate symptoms, which may encompass:

  • Physical Therapy: A physical therapist can instruct you on exercises designed to stretch the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon, as well as strengthen the muscles in your lower leg. Additionally, they may teach you how to apply athletic taping to provide support to the underside of your foot.
  • Medi-booster: Our latest product is a blood flow booster and blocks pain signals. The type of therapy can help reduce inflammation, reduce stiffness and reduce your pain. The Medi-Booster comes with electrodes, giving you the ability to treat other areas of the body, whilst treating your plantar fasciitis. 
  • Tens Machines: A popular method of treatment and quite similar to the medi-boost, depending on the machine. Tens Therapy again can help with reducing inflammation and reducing your pain. 
  • Orthotic Supports: Your healthcare provider may prescribe either off-the-shelf or custom-fitted arch supports, referred to as orthotics, to help distribute pressure on your feet more evenly.
  • Ankle Supports: Compression-enhanced Ankle Supports play a crucial role in minimizing swelling and alleviating pain. Extensive research indicates that Ankle Braces outperform ankle tape, primarily owing to their superior compression capabilities, ease of adjustment, and breathability for optimal foot comfort.

Surgical and Alternative Procedures: 

If conservative methods prove ineffective over several months, your healthcare provider may propose the following interventions:

  • Injections: Injecting steroid medication into the tender area can offer temporary pain relief. Multiple injections are not recommended as they may weaken the plantar fascia and potentially lead to rupture. Alternatively, platelet-rich plasma derived from your own blood can be injected into the affected area to encourage tissue healing. The use of ultrasound imaging during injections aids in precise needle placement.
  • Ultrasonic Tissue Repair: This minimally invasive technique employs ultrasound imaging to guide a needle-like probe into the damaged plantar fascia tissue. The tip of the probe rapidly vibrates to break up the damaged tissue, which is subsequently suctioned out.
  • Surgery: Surgical intervention is rarely necessary and is considered only when pain is severe and other treatments have failed. It can be performed as an open procedure or through a small incision under local anesthesia to detach the plantar fascia from the heel bone.

Lifestyle and Home Remedies

There are a number of lifestyle and home remedies that could also assist with helping reduce your pain, have a go at these self-help tips: 

  1. Stretching and Strengthening Exercises: Incorporating exercises that focus on stretching and strengthening can be highly effective in alleviating plantar fasciitis discomfort. These exercises target tight muscles, enhance flexibility, and strengthen both calf and foot muscles. 
  2. Ice Therapy: Reducing inflammation through ice treatment is another natural approach to relieve plantar fasciitis pain. Ice can be applied to the affected area, such as the heel and arch of the foot, to reduce swelling and provide pain relief. Note that ice therapy may not be suitable for individuals with poor circulation.
  3. Massage Therapy: Massage therapy is an effective natural method for managing plantar fasciitis pain. Massaging the muscles in your calves and feet can enhance circulation, alleviate tension, and expedite the healing process.  Remember to start with gentle pressure and increase it gradually as discomfort lessens. Cease if any pain or discomfort occurs and consult a healthcare professional.
  4. Footwear Modifications: Choosing the right shoes and replacing worn-out footwear is a critical natural strategy for addressing plantar fasciitis. Proper footwear can reduce stress on the plantar fascia. Keep in mind that footwear modification is one aspect of managing plantar fasciitis; combine it with other natural remedies such as exercise, massage therapy, and rest for comprehensive pain relief and healing.
  5. Rest and Recovery: Rest is crucial for healing plantar fasciitis, which often results from overuse and repeated stress. Give your foot the time it needs to recuperate, and combine it with stretching and strengthening exercises and proper footwear. This holistic approach can effectively manage and treat plantar fasciitis without resorting to drugs or surgery.
  6. Maintain a Healthy Weight: To naturally address plantar fasciitis discomfort, maintaining a healthy weight or losing excess weight is essential. Extra weight can exacerbate the condition, so focus on a balanced diet high in nutrients and low in processed foods. Include fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and healthy grains. Staying hydrated can help maintain a healthy weight, reduce inflammation, and facilitate healing.

Risk Factors of Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis can manifest due to a variety of factors, with excessive strain on the fascia being a notable cause. However, other contributing elements may include trauma, improper foot alignment, and ill-fitting footwear. Certain individuals have an elevated susceptibility to developing plantar fasciitis based on various risk factors. These factors encompass:

Demographics and Physical Characteristics:

  • Gender: Women are at an increased risk.
  • Weight and Pregnancy: Overweight or obese individuals, as well as pregnant women, face a higher likelihood.
  • Age: The age range of 40 to 70 is associated with a greater risk.

Foot Characteristics and Mechanics:

  • Foot Structure: Having flat feet or very high arches can influence susceptibility.
  • Achilles Tendons: Tight Achilles tendons contribute to the risk.
  • Pronation: An inward pronation during walking, where the ankle turns inward, heightens the risk.
  • Calf Muscles: Tight calf muscles are a contributing factor.

Physical Activities and Footwear Choices:

  • High-Impact Activities: Participation in activities like running, jumping, or dance, such as ballet, can elevate the risk.
  • Repetitive Foot Impact: Engaging in activities with repeated foot impact increases susceptibility.
  • High Heel Usage: Frequent use of high-heeled shoes contributes to the risk.
  • Prolonged Standing: Individuals who spend substantial time standing, especially on hard surfaces, face an elevated risk.
  • Footwear Selection: Wearing shoes with thin soles or lacking proper arch support can be a contributing factor.

While excess strain on the plantar fascia is a common cause, it is essential to recognize that various factors and characteristics can collectively increase the likelihood of developing plantar fasciitis.