Posted on May 5, 2023 at 10:00 AM by Iowa Weight Loss Specialists
For people living with obesity, daily activities such as standing or walking can be painful or uncomfortable, particularly if they have plantar fasciitis. Experiencing foot pain can cause people to avoid exercise and continue living a sedentary lifestyle. This is problematic, especially for those with obesity because this could lead to further weight gain or stall any progress they have made on losing weight. Being overweight increases one's chances of developing foot issues such as flat feet, ankle pain, and plantar fasciitis, so podiatric health is important for quality of life.
Plantar fasciitis is when the plantar fascia, the workhorse of the foot that provides arch support and shock absorption, is in inflamed due to stress from overuse or tight muscles. It is also associated with having a high BMI. Our feet support us as we move through our day, and when we live at an unhealthy weight, our foot function is negatively affected.
While surgery for plantar fasciitis is an option for some individuals, those with obesity may not be good candidates for surgical procedures for planar fasciitis because of the increased risks associated with anesthesia. Therefore, nonsurgical treatments represent a good place to start and have been associated with resolving plantar fasciitis symptoms in 12-18 months for 90 to 95 percent of patients. Treatments for plantar fasciitis can begin with more conservative approaches such as:
1. Plantar fascia stretching and icing: This is a low cost, easy to learn, and efficacious strategy that involves dorsiflexing the toes with one’s hand and palpating the plantar fascia with the other hand, three times for 30 seconds. This should be performed daily, each morning. Icing the plantar fascia is also efficacious. This can be done by using a frozen can or freezing water in a bottle and then rolling the foot with moderate pressure for 5-10 minutes at the end of the day.
2. Night splints: Dorsiflexion night splinting has also been found to improve plantar fasciitis symptoms. Night splints have been found to yield positive outcomes within 12 weeks.
3. Orthotics: Orthotic inserts that increase support of the medial arch are also effective. Heel cups were also found to be effective. The appropriate orthotic should be determined by each patient’s presentation of and severity of symptoms.
4. NSAIDS: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications can be effective for patients who can tolerate them. The benefits of NSAIDS, although effective, yield shorter term results.
For those living with obesity and also suffering from foot pain, lifestyle changes that include exercise can be accomplished. Your provider can modify your current exercise program to include low-impact or non-weight bearing exercises such as swimming, cycling, or rowing. Because the pain of plantar fasciitis impedes one’s ability to walk comfortably, introducing non-weight bearing activities can help individuals maintain cardiovascular health, expend calories, and lead an active lifestyle as they heal. In addition to non-weight bearing activities, your provider can help you re-evaluate your current diet plan and make tailored adjustments.
The pain and discomfort of plantar fasciitis for people with obesity does not need to undermine their ongoing weight loss efforts. With proper diagnosis, treatment, and weight loss, people with obesity can be transition back to weight-bearing activities and live a healthy life at a healthy weight.