If you are dealing with pain associated with plantar fasciitis have you considered using a TENS unit to help alleviate and reduce the aches and pains? Recently I aggravated my plantar fasciitis. I was doing weighted calf raises in the gym and went a little bit overboard. The next day I felt a sharp pain in the bottom of both feet that persisted for days. Luckily I found a quick way to get pain relief- TENS Therapy.
TENS Pad Placement for Plantar Fasciitis
The placement of the TENS electrode pads is important. Generally with plantar fasciitis pain runs across the bottom of the foot from the heel all the way to where your toes connect (referred to as the plantar fascia). In order to help reduce the pain you need to place the electrode pad on the bottom of your foot and on the calf and side of foot (see pic to the left).
TENS unit placement is not an exact science. You can experiment with the placement of the pads along the back of the leg and heel.
Another common placement for the pads is to put 2 pads underneath your foot along the middle where the plantar fascia ligament connects your heel to the front of your foot. See picture below:
You can experiment with the exact placement here as well. Always place the pad where the pain is most sever.
Last tip on the TENS electrode placement- Try to have space between the electrode pads. One inch is ideal if possible.
I have found that this placement works best at delivering pain relief. By concentrating the electrode pads directly on the plantar fascia it has worked wonders.
How High Should I Set My TENS Unit? click here to read what settings to use.
Best TENS Unit for Plantar Fasciitis
This is the exact TENS unit that I use. It is perfect for treating plantar fasciitis. The iReliev is a great little device and has a lot of going for it.
It is under $90 and has several programs to choose from and is small enough to fit in your pocket. My favorite program is P8 on the device. It delivers a strong pulsating sensation that eases the pain quickly. Get yours today on the iReliev website by clicking here.
You do not need to spend hundreds of dollars to get a quality TENS unit and iReliev gives you a ton of value. Best part is they are based in Dallas, Texas and have phenomenal customer service and their shipping is lightning quick! I got mine in 3 days. Stop wasting $ on those nameless Amazon brands that offer no customer support.
Why should you trust me?
I have extensively used TENS units for neck, shoulder, back and knee issues for over a decade. I became familiar with TENS therapy through countless visits to my chiropractor and physical therapist’s office. I have spent many hours researching and reading how TENS therapy can alleviate pain. Many of my recommendations are from firsthand experience/use and hopefully can be a benefit to you.
Along with a TENS unit, I also found that using a massage gun helpful in breaking up the scar tissue helps in reducing the pain from plantar fasciitis. I use this massage gun from iReliev:
It is the perfect device for loosening the fascia and bringing back mobility to your feet. This massager is powerful and comes with different attachments to target the needed areas.
How can TENS therapy help plantar fasciitis pain?
TENS therapy will not heal the plantar fasciitis completely but it will provide a method of safe pain relief and can help the affected tendons heal. TENS works by electrical current to nerve endings through your skin.
First the electrical impulse will block the pain signals to the brain and replace it with a tingling massage like feeling. You should aim for at least 30 minutes of use with any TENS unit to reach the maximum benefits from it. It is safe to use a TENS for longer periods of time if the pain is chronic or severe.
Can you use a TENS unit for plantar fasciitis?
The answer is a definite YES. This is probably one of the more painful foot pains that there is.
You can do exercises that will assist and with the addition of a TENS unit it will help ease the pain from plantar fasciitis. Chiropractors regularly incorporate the use of TENS therapy to help give their patients relief and YOU can take advantage of this type of therapy.
Research on the effectiveness of TENS therapy to treat plantar fasciitis
There was a study completed back in 2009 that looked at using low frequency electrical stimulation as a treatment for plantar fasciitis. They had 2 groups:
- Control group was only treated with stretching exercises and orthotic braces
- Treatment group was treated with TENS therapy along with stretching exercises and orthotic braces.
The results of this study showed that both control groups experienced a decrease in pain but one thing did stand out. The group that used TENS therapy reported feeling a decrease in pain by 35% as opposed to 23.9% for the control group.
Things to consider when using a TENS unit
The great thing about TENS units are when used correctly there are no long term harmful side effects unlike many over the counter and prescribed medications for pain.
When you buy a TENS unit you should read the instructions on what not to do with them but since you are still reading this article I will give you the cliff notes version.
Here are some simple things to keep in mind when using your TENS unit.
- NEVER place a TENS unit in water or near excessive heat
- If your TENS unit uses disposable batteries, do not mix old ones with new ones. As as the voltage provided maybe insufficient
- If you plan on not using your TENS unit for awhile it is a good idea to remove the batteries (if applicable). For the units that have built in lithium batteries no need to remove it.
Do NOT use TENS if you have any of the following conditions
- If you have a pacemaker or a heart rhythm problem
- If you have epilepsy
- Do not use near heart monitors or alarms
- If you have acute or infectious diseases
Do not place the TENS unit electrode pads
- Over your eyes
- Across the front part of your head
- On the abdomen, if you are pregnant
- Near any malignant tumors
- On the carotid arteries in the front of your neck
- On the head of anyone under the age of 12
Some things to keep in mind when using a TENS unit on your skin
- Always wash the area of the skin where the electrode pads will be put. Make sure the area is dry to ensure the pads will adhere to the skin.
- You do not have to shave hair in the area where the pads will be used. If there is excess hair you can just use some scissors.
- When you are done with the TENS treatment, remember to pull in the direction of hair growth
- If you have irritated or broken skin or even an open wound, it is wise to NEVER apply the electrode pads until the area has fully healed.
- When you are done using your TENS unit put the electrode pads back onto the plastic square- This will ensure that the pads stay sticky and can be reused multiple times.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
The one thing that I hate the most is a foot cramp. I don’t know what it is, but every time I get comfy and relaxed in my bed, a foot cramp decides to come wandering in and drive me crazy for the next half an hour.
What would be even worse is if I had a chronic foot cramp with pain whether I was sitting down, or while I was walking. If this was the case, I may have Plantar Fasciitis.
Plantar Fasciitis is a disorder of the connective tissue in the foot which supports the arch of the foot. If stretching my toes to my shin caused me pain, or by just simply bending my foot caused me agony, Plantar Fasciitis may be the culprit to blame. In most cases it only will affect one foot, but it is not uncommon to experience it in both feet.
Main Idea: Plantar Fasciitis is a disorder of the connective tissue in the foot which may result from numerous contributors, in which it can create numbness, tingling, swelling, and radiating pain.
What Can Cause Plantar Fasciitis?
Besides the possibility of me being too idle on the couch while watching Netflix, there are other possible causes of how Plantar Fasciitis can occur. These include:
- Long periods of standing
- Being overweight
- Excessive and minimal exercise
- Being Sedentary
These are very common lifestyle contributors to this condition. Not only do lifestyles contribute to this condition, but also handicaps, illnesses, and injuries. These include:
- Windlass mechanism (difficulty with normal mechanical locomotion such as standing or walking)
- Past tendon injury (involving the flexor digitorum brevis muscle)
- Ankylosing Spondylitis
These are also strong candidates to why we could have Plantar Fasciitis. Although it was once thought that heel spurs cause Plantar Fasciitis, it is now widely accepted that the opposite is true, Plantar Fasciitis in fact leads to heel spurs. So what is the science behind why this pain occurs?
It is believed that the main cause of Plantar Fasciitis is the repetitive small tears that occur to the plantar fascia. These repetitive small tears can lead to degeneration of the tissue, damaged collagen fibers, and calcium deposits in the connective tissue which can lead to a painful experience.
Takeaway Main Idea: Plantar Fasciitis can be caused by being sedentary, excessive or minimal exercise, past injury to the tendon, in proper walking due to disability, long periods of standing, injuries from jumping and landing incorrectly, poor support from shoes, as well as certain diseases such as arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.
How to Minimize The Risk of Plantar Fasciitis:
1) Wear good shoes
2) Have Insole support for flat or very high arches
3) Minimize wearing high heeled shoes
4) Staying hydrated to prevent tight Achilles tendons
5) Walking correctly and have good posture
6) Use a night splint at night. Check out my review here on the best night splints for plantar fasciitis
What are the symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?
The main symptoms experienced would be tenderness and soreness on the bottom of my foot/feet. Although the pain usually is toward the heel, the entire bottom surface of the foot can be affected. Other symptoms include:
- Radiating pain
All of these are the possibilities of painful side effects with Plantar Fasciitis. Some of these occur from poor blood circulation due to scarring of the plantar fasciitis. Pain can vary from very dull and non-bothersome, to a very sharp unbearable pain. Heel stiffness also can result making it difficult to climb stairs or walk. If overuse of the plantar fascia occurs, rupturing can occur. If rupturing occurs, there is a possibility of:
- Snapping or clicking sound of the foot
- Swelling in the sole of the foot
- Constant acute pain.
Takeaway Main Idea: Symptoms can vary from having little pain, to a very uncomfortable situation. Numbness, tingling, swelling, burning, and radiating pain are all possible symptoms of plantar fasciitis. Continued damage and continued irritation can result in damage to the foot, and constant acute pain.
How long does Plantar Fasciitis last?
The severe symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis can last anywhere from two to six weeks, with it taking up to six to twelve months until the foot is functionally back to normal. Healing time depends on the severity of the injury. In all cases the best remedy is resting the injured foot/feet. Rest along with exercises can help speed up the healing time.
What exercises can I do for plantar fasciitis?
Stretching and doing exercises that make the foot and lower leg muscles more flexible and stronger is the best solution. Stretching the bottom of the foot, calves, and Achilles tendon is a good remedy as well as a preventive measure. Stretching these areas help strengthen and stabilize these muscles as well as aiding in pain relief. Good stretches to do are :
- Face the wall, and put your hands up on the wall.
- Place one foot behind the other one, while maintaining being parallel.
- Learn towards the wall and try to keep your back foot on the ground as flat as possible.
- Do this for 30 seconds and then switch feet position.
- Repeat until relief is felt.
- Remove shoes and socks
- Sit in a chair and place one foot on your lap.
- With your hand, slowly bend your foot back and forward gently, trying to increase the range of bend.
- Don’t overdo it, make it a good stretch, not a pain.
- Switch feet and repeat.
- Continue exercise until level of contentment is reached.
Treatments for Plantar Fasciitis
The most common treatment for plantar fasciitis is rest. In many of the cases the foot is stressed and needs to recover from its microscopic tears and ruptures. Other home remedy treatments include:
- Pain Relievers: (NSAIDS) Ibuprofen
- Stretching ( See above for exercises)
- Insoles and Heel cups for shoes
- Night Splints (Help stretch the plantar fascia)
- Soaking foot/feet in ice Water
- Applying an ice pack to foot/feet
In the event that home remedies do not relieve the pain or correct the problem of Plantar Fasciitis, advanced medical options do exist. These include:
- Removal of the Scar Tissue in the Fascia
- Injections of Steroids (temporary pain relief)
- Shock Wave Therapy (aids in the healing process)
- Complete Removal of Plantar Fascia
More conservative measures should always be taken before surgical ones. In many of these cases being kind to your feet will help prevent Plantar Fasciitis. Moderate exercise, good shoes, and maintaining a healthy weight will all be positive in the defense against the agitation and tearing of your fascia.
Thank you for reading,