Hands-on treatment administered by a
physical therapist is beneficial for heel pain

Nearly 10% of the population will experience the condition in their lifetime
Plantar fasciitis, which is often referred to as plantar heel pain, is a very common condition, as about 10% of the general population will experience it at least once in their lives. It occurs when a strong piece of tissue on the bottom of the foot called the plantar fascia becomes inflamed or damaged. This typically leads to a stabbing pain in near the heel, which is usually worst with the first few steps of the day or after long periods of inactivity. Recommended treatments for plantar heel pain include a variety of stretching and strengthening exercises, bracing and hands-on therapy called manual therapy, which is usually administered by a physical therapist. Manual therapy is commonly used for patients with plantar heel pain, but there is only weak evidence available to support its effectiveness. For this reason, a review was conducted with the goal of reviewing all the research on manual therapy for plantar heel pain and determining if it is in fact beneficial for the condition.

Four medical databases searched for relevant studies
Investigators performed a search of four major medical databases for relevant studies that evaluated the effectiveness of manual therapy for plantar heel pain. This search led to six randomized-controlled trials (RCTs) being included in the review. RCTs randomly compare groups of patients receiving various treatments, and are considered the gold standard of individual studies for assessing specific interventions. Once accepted, the findings of each of these studies were compared to one another, and their quality was also assessed to determine the reliability of the information they contained.

Several studies show that manual therapy helps patients improve
On the whole, the results of this review supported manual therapy as a beneficial intervention for plantar heel pain. In particular, authors of the included studies concluded that one type of manual therapy called soft-tissue mobilization was likely more effective than other treatments or placebo treatments for the condition. The quality of the included studies was rated as moderate-to-high, which shows that these findings should be considered reliable and can be used to guide for physical therapists treating patients with plantar heel pain. More research is now needed to determine which type of manual therapy is most effective, but plantar heel pain patients are still strongly encouraged to seek out manual therapy treatment from a physical therapist for the best chance at a safe and successful recovery.

-Summarized by Greg Gargiulo

-As reported in the August '17 issue of The Foot