Plantar Fasciitis & Foot Orthotics

Yes. We treat a lot of plantar fasciitis. There is a lot of foot pain out there. While performing a literature review of heel pain in 2005 (follow this link to READ MORE), I made reference to several articles about the prevalence of heel pain. One United States study estimated that one million patient visits each year are for the diagnosis and treatment of plantar heel pain. This disorder appears in the sedentary and geriatric population, it makes up one quarter of all foot injuries in runners, and is the reason for 8% of all injuries to people participating in sports. As many of you know, all that we do regarding foot orthotic fabrication and physical therapy is with good, evidence-based reason. I fabricate custom foot orthotics based on sound biomechanical principles and evidence-based research. Patients are always asking me “so how will foot orthotics help my plantar fasciitis?” Here is the answer! I have included both a clinical description as well as a more basic description in the video. This will allow you to refer your doctor and/or PT as well as a relative who may ask WHY or HOW we made your foot orthotics. I have included references for several articles that have had a profound influence on my treatment and fabrication philosophy regarding plantar fasciitis.  I would like to share my insights with you.

It has been my experience that positive results can be achieved much more quickly for cases of plantar fasciitis using the combination of softer materials to cushion the foot in combination with stiffer, denser materials to redistribute pressures on the foot. My direct molding techniques produce a total contact orthotic which reduces weight bearing pressure on both the heel and forefoot.  These findings for total contact orthoses have been confirmed by both Mueller et al10,11 and Ki et al12. As you can see from my samples on the video, I utilize softer materials as a top layer with the addition of a heel pad on the bottom.  I reinforce the arch in order to redistribute pressures up against the talonavicular joint (or midfoot).  I utilize a forefoot valgus post (higher on the outside of the forefoot) with a slight reverse Morton extension (ledge under toes 2-5) in order to plantar flex the first ray (big toe lower than the other four toes) and unload both the fascia and 1st MTP joint (big toe joint)  As I tell my patients, the foot orthotic is only as good as the shoe you put around it. Our best results with the over-pronating foot are achieved via the combination of motion control shoes and custom orthoses.

In regards to prefabricated orthotics such as ALine, it is one-shape-fits-all and only utilizes rearfoot posting “to help align the leg from foot to hip” per the website. The concept of rearfoot posting for biomechanical control is a much debated topic in the literature. Forefoot modifications are not an option. It is also a very rigid material against a painful heel.  It has been my experience that prefabs such as ALine or Powerstep are a good option for the younger, athletic patient.

Don’t forget, our custom foot orthotics range in price from $120 to $165. I direct mold, fabricate, educate and issue in one hour!  All adjustments included. Our WalkWell guarantee since 1997!!

Research findings continued……

Research done by Kogler1,2,3 et al has been instrumental in determining the appropriate type of rearfoot and/or forefoot posting for foot orthotics for plantar fasciitis. Kogler showed that rearfoot posting had little effect on plantar fascia strain, forefoot varus posting increased the stress, and forefoot valgus posting actually decreased the strain.  Kogler concluded that foot orthotics which raised the talonavicular joint and prevented dorsiflexion of the first ray were most effective in reducing the strain on the central band of the plantar fascia. I recently made orthotics for a patient who said her doctor issued bilateral heel lifts “to take the stress off of the fascia”.  Kogler actually showed no change in plantar fascia strain using heel lifts.  However, heel lifts have been shown by Trepman et al4 in 2000 to decrease the compressive forces in the tarsal tunnel.  Benno Nigg5, a researcher in Canada, has also published over 200 articles on biomechanics.  He has stated that based on his results, custom foot orthotics, on average, control only 2-3 degrees of motion.  This would be his kinematic results, however, he has done a lot of enlightening research on the kinetic effects of foot orthotics. A little bedtime reading for you!

Paul Scherer6,7,DPM has published several articles on the effects of custom orthotics on the 1st MTP joint. The concept of maintaining the first ray in a plantar flexed position unloads both the 1st MTP joint as well as the plantar fascia. Howard Dananberg8,DPM has also written several articles on this topic. Doug Richie9,DPM has been a great resource for the evidence behind the treatment of plantar fasciitis as well as posterior tibialis dysfunction.  You may have heard of the Richie brace.  Dr Richie states that the “most effective foot orthotic for plantar fasciitis is one that hugs against the navicular and flares away from (or plantar flexes) the first ray.”

1.Kogler, G. F.; Solomonidis, S. E.; and Paul, J. P.: Biomechanics of longitudinal arch support mechanisms in foot orthoses and their effect on plantar aponeurosis strain. Clin. Biomech., 11: 243-252, 1996.

2.Kogler GF, Veer FB, Solomonidis SE, et al. The influence of medial and lateral placement of   wedges on loading the plantar aponeurosis, An in vitro study. J Bone and Joint Surg Am. 81:1403-1413, 1999

3.Kogler GF, Veer FB, Verhulst SJ, Solomonidis SE, Paul JP.

The effect of heel elevation on strain within the plantar aponeurosis: in vitro study.

Foot Ankle Int. 2001 May;22(5):433-9.

4.Trepman E, Kadel NJ: Effect of foot and ankle position on tarsal tunnel compartment pressure. Foot Ankle Int 20(11):721, 2000

5.Nigg, B. Biomechanics of Sport Shoes. 2011

6.Scherer PR, Sanders J, Eldredge, DE, et al. Effect of functional foot orthoses on first metatarsophalangeal joint dorsiflexion in stance and gait. J Am Podiatr Med Assoc 2006;96(6):474-481.

7.Scherer,P. Recent Advances in Orthotic Therapy. 2011

8.Dananberg HJ. Functional hallux limitus and its relationship to gait efficiency. J Am Podiatr Med Assoc. 1986; 76(11):648-52

9.Richie,D. Offloading the plantar fascia: What you should know. Podiatry Today, Vol 18. Issue 11, Nov 2005.

10.Mueller MJ, Hastings M, Commean PK, et al. Forefoot structural predictors of plantar pressures during walking in people with diabetes and peripheral neuropathy. J Biomech 2003;36(7):1009-1017.

11.Mueller MJ, Lott DJ, Hastings MK, et al. Efficacy and mechanism of orthotic devices to unload metatarsal heads in people with diabetes and a history of plantar ulcers. Phys Ther 2006;86(6):833-842.

12.Ki SW, Leung AK, Li AN. Comparison of plantar pressure distribution patterns between foot orthoses provided by the CAD-CAM and foam impression methods. Prosthet Orthot Int 2008;32(3):356-362.

Nerve Mobilization Techniques

I would like to highlight one of the unique treatment techniques that we offer at OrthoWell.  As many of you know, we spend a lot of quality time during our biomechanical evaluation trying to “figure things out”. This is the reason that several of our referring physicians call us “THINKERS”.  We pride ourselves in determining your functional diagnosis. This diagnosis is what we use to develop your plan of care and to educate you in how to alleviate your pain or dysfunction. Many of our patients have seen several physicians or therapists before hearing about us. For this reason, we offer specialized evaluation and treatment services that our patients may not have heard of and that may be appropriate to alleviate symptoms that have been unresponsive to prior interventions.  One of these is Nerve Mobilization or NeuroMobilization. So what is it?

What is NeuroMobilization?

NeuroMobilization or Nerve Mobilization is a technique that we utilize to treat nerves that may be adhered, irritated, or compressed.  Many patients that have been unresponsive to other physical therapy and present with a chronic history of referred symptoms like pain, numbness, or tingling into the arms or legs may respond to NeuroMobilization.  Every patient that presents with referred symptoms or pain that has been unresponsive to localized treatment receives a complete neural tension evaluation.  Neural tension testing is a way for your therapist to determine the extent of nerve involvement.  By mobilizing a nerve, we can determine, in combination with manual traction and sensitizing maneuvers, whether your pain is originating from the spine or the periphery.

NeuroMobilization Techniques

We can then perform NeuroMobilization techniques utilizing controlled neural tension maneuvers to mobilize the nerve up and down.  David Butler,PT, has been at the forefront of these techniques for over 20 years.  Although we still do not completely understand the exact mechanism, he proposes that NeuroMobilization (what David Butler calls Neurodynamics) can accelerate nerve healing and quiet down what he calls an “altered impulse generating system (AIGs)”.  These AIGs may respond to the oscillations of NeuroMobilization by enhancing circulatory exchange or ion transfer in and around the nerve.  You can read more about the techniques and science in David Butler’s book The Sensitive Nervous System.

Here is a video that highlights a sciatic nerve tension test and Neuromobilization.

 

PUMP YOU UP!!

So how important is resistance training? I have had the privilege of working with one of my peers, a fellow PT, and strength and conditioning specialist, Mike Stare from Spectrum Fitness in Beverly, both professionally as well as personally. Mike helped to redirect MY fitness program while I was recovering from my knee injuries 1.5 years ago. Mike is on top of his game from a fitness training standpoint. He has devoted a lot of time and resources in developing an evidence-based approach to fitness and weight loss in ALL age groups. You can see this for yourself at his website. It is important for clients in a fitness program as well as our patients in physical therapy at OrthoWell to understand HOW to strengthen muscles.

The physiological principle of “overload” is what makes the difference between strength gains and stagnation. Resistance training is hard work! I tell my patients “If it’s easy, then you’re doing something wrong!” Is it true that people will lose 5-10% of muscle strength in every decade of life after the age of 40? Studies have shown that people can retain 100% of their muscle mass and strength from age 40 through their 80s with exercise! (Wrobelski, A. et al. The Phys and Sports Med, Sept 2011) You can read more on the Anti-Aging movement at Mike’s BLOG as well.

However, during exercise, you need to challenge your muscles physiologically. You need to provide a “load” that goes “over” your muscles comfort zone. In order for a muscle (including the heart) to increase strength, it must be gradually stressed by working against a load greater than it is used to. So how do you do this? There are many books and magazines such as Muscle Fitness that advocate all kinds of strategies for maximizing strength and muscle mass. Strength gains can be accomplished by performing a one-repetition maximum as well as via the typical 10 rep set approach. My approach, with the fine-tuning of Mike, is to instruct my patients in 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions per exercise. The most important factors to consider are the utilization of proper technique in order to isolate the specific muscle as well as to use the idea of the “loss of technical form” as your maximum output point. By the time you reach the 8-12th rep you should be tiring and on the verge of a loss of technical form. You should not work to fatigue as this will compromise your technique and become a safety concern. Regarding the frequency of strengthening exercise, studies show that strength gains are maximized at a frequency of 2-3x per week. The American College of Sport Medicine (ACSM) recommends working out a MINIMUM of 2x per week at an intensity that is equal to 70-85 percent of your one rep maximum (maximum weight you can use for one rep) for 8-10 reps and 1-3 sets. A program that comprises repetitions over 12 is considered endurance training. For cardiovascular benefits, the ASCM recommends exercising for a frequency of 3-5 times per week, at an intensity equal to 60-85 percent of your maximum heart rate for a time of 20-60 minutes. Research has shown that you’ll get the same beneficial results by exercising at 50-60% of your maximum heart rate that you would get exercising at an intensity 80% of your maximum heart rate.

At OrthoWell, as part of your physical therapy, we get you started on a strengthening program that targets your problem area. Finding the right practitioner to design a complete, individualized fitness program can be a very rewarding thing and Spectrum Fitness is definitely one of our choices. As Mike points out, “If there is one thing to do to improve the quality of life as we age, strength training would be it.”

For our athletes and runners, don’t forget that strength training has been PROVEN to enhance athletic performance. Read the following to get the facts!

-A University of Alabama meta-analysis of the endurance training scientific literature revealed that 10 weeks of resistance training in trained distance runners improves running economy by 8-10%.  For the mathematicians in the crowd, that’s about 20-24 minutes off a four-hour marathon – and likely more if you’re not a well-trained endurance athlete in the first place.

-French researchers found that the addition of two weight-training sessions per week for 14 weeks significantly increased maximal strength and running economy while maintaining peak power in triathletes.  Meanwhile, the control group – which only did endurance training – gained no maximal strength or running economy, and their peak power actually decreased (who do you think would win that all-out sprint at the finish line?).  And, interestingly, the combined endurance with resistance training group saw greater increases in VO2max over the course of the intervention.

-Scientists at the Research Institute for Olympic Sports at the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland found that replacing 32% of regular endurance training volume with explosive resistance training for nine weeks improved 5km times, running economy, VO2max, maximal 20m speed, and performance on a 5-jump test.  With the exception of VO2max, none of these measures improved in the control group that just did endurance training.  How do you think they felt knowing that a good 1/3 of their entire training volume was largely unnecessary, and would have been better spent on other initiatives?

-University of Illinois researchers found that addition of three resistance training sessions for ten weeks improved short-term endurance performance by 11% and 13% during cycling and running, respectively.  Additionally, the researchers noted that “long-term cycling to exhaustion at 80% VO2max increased from 71 to 85 min after the addition of strength training”

Why does your knee keep on hurtin’?

As the adage goes “ The more treatments we have for something, the more we don’t understand the cause”, it seems that anterior (front) knee pain or patellofemoral (kneecap) dysfunction would fall into that category. We understand that a torn meniscus or torn anterior cruciate ligament requires surgery. So how about that nagging, chronic pain in the front of your knee. The kind of pain that returns on a whim and makes you think twice about returning to your break-dancing hey day at your nephew’s wedding. The kind of “twinge” that shrinks your confidence on the 18th hole of your company’s summer, for-boasting-rights golf outing. The reason—not as obvious. So here’s one for you, for boasting rights, of course. In Dye et al (AJSM 1998), the lead researcher decides that he would be the guinea pig in a “mapping” of pain responses during arthroscopic probing, WITHOUT anesthesia, of his anterior knee and patellofemoral joint. Ouch!! The authors rated the level of conscious awareness from no sensation to severe pain. They also subdivided the results based on the ability to accurately localize the sensation. So what did they find? They found that palpation to the anterior synovial linings and capsule (front aspect of the inside of the knee joint), retinaculum (ligament on either side of the knee cap), and fat pad (underneath the patellar tendon) produced moderate to severe pain. The most interesting thing about this study, besides the masochistic aspect, is that NO sensation was detected on the patellar articular cartilage (the underside of the kneecap) even in high level “chondromalacia” or arthritis of the undersurface of the kneecap. The implication of this study is that anterior knee pain is NOT caused by the patellofemoral or kneecap joint.

To take it a step further, Faulkerson et al (Clin Orthop 1985) reported a direct relationship between the severity of pain in the anterior knee and the severity of neural damage within the lateral retinaculum (ligament on the outside of the kneecap). They found that patients presenting with moderate to severe pain were found to have the highest degree of change in the neural tissues of the lateral retinaculum. Very interesting! I’m sure you would agree.

What this means for your therapy is that we can utilize manual therapy and taping strategies to address the neural and soft tissue changes in the lateral retinaculum.  KinesioTaping techniques can produce a “proprioceptive override” effect in which the stimulation of the tape on the skin can override and cancel out the pain receptors. This, of course, is an adaptive process that occurs through consistent intervention and compliance with a home exercise program. Let us show YOU how to get back control of your knee pain.

Foam Rolling Technique

As most of you know, a very important part of our practice is the treatment of soft tissue dysfunction. This may be in the form of a muscle “knot”, chronic scar tissue, or post-surgical stiffness. We have many names ie “the doctors of knotology” and “the Marquis de Sade” to name a few. In spite of the many terms of endearment, at OrthoWell, we get our patients better- Faster! because of our approach. A very important part of your recovery has to do with your home program. Every conditioning program should include stretching, strengthening, cardio, and a close fourth should be self-massage and/or self-mobilization. Many of you have experienced “the twins” (my double tennis ball massager) as well as the foam roller. It is important to address your chronic “knots”, scar tissue, and muscle sensitivities in order to promote optimal tissue dynamics and to prevent future pain syndromes related to poor tissue dynamics.

The following video highlights our foam rolling strategy for your lower extremities. Each muscle group should receive 5-10 passes along the foam roll. The amount of weight you impart upon the roll will be dictated by your tolerance. Yes, this should hurt! Only mild to moderate pain, nothing severe. Use your arms and opposite leg to control the pressure being applied. Try to identify key areas along the way that may need additional passes. Yes, over time, the pain will subside and your pressure will increase. Consistency is the key. Ideally, stretching and self-massage should happen daily. Here is a run down of what is happening in the video.

1. In the first part of the video, I am treating the quadriceps. Longer muscles need more attention. Perform 5-10 passes each at the upper end, middle, and lower end of the muscle.

2. Turn 45 degrees and perform the same treatment at the junction between the quadriceps and iliotibial band(ITB). Pay close attention to the lower end near your patella.

3. Turn another 45 degrees and, in the same manner, treat directly along all three aspects of the ITB.

4. Next, turn over and treat your upper glute area. Cross one leg over the other as shown. The leg that is crossed is the side you are treating. Perform 5-10 passes.

5. Move down to the hamstrings and treat the upper, mid, and lower ends. Place your opposite leg on top of the treatment leg in order to impart more pressure.

6. Next, treat the calf muscle. Place the opposite leg on top for more pressure. Treat the entire length of the calf. You can also perform an up/down ankle movement in order to help glide the stiff tissue while imparting pressure onto the roll.

7. Finally, treat the inner thigh or adductor muscle group. It may be easier to use the 6” roll to treat this area effectively. You can purchase a white 6” roll which is the same material as the 4” or you may purchase the black roll which is firmer than the white.

Keep on rollin’