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Ask Nate Riess: Can Physical Therapy Treat Foot Pain?

Learn how physical therapy is successfully used to treat and relieve foot pain.

Foot pain can bring your busy life to a sudden stop. When a foot injury interferes with your activities, Summit Orthopedics offers a variety of specialists and treatments to help. Most of us know that rest is often a good conservative first step for an injured foot. And we know that if foot pain persists and worsens, surgical procedures are available for consideration. But not everyone may know that physical therapy is an effective foot pain treatment to resolve a wide range of foot and ankle issues. Physical therapist Nate Riess discusses the exercises used to treat foot pain. He also identifies the foot conditions that respond best to this noninvasive treatment.

Foot conditions treated with physical therapy

“Physical therapists are movement experts with a science-based understanding of the body,” Riess explains. “Here at Summit, we offer a repertoire of specific exercises for injured tissues in the foot and in other parts of the body. Our personalized therapy can help you extend your range of motion, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability.”

Riess explains that physical therapy is a conservative treatment that is effective for a variety of foot and ankle injuries.

People affected by foot pain

“There’s no specific demographic for patients with foot pain,” states Riess. “We work with patients of every age. The age range we typically treat depends on the specific injury.”

What you can expect during a physical therapy evaluation

“When you come in, we check for range of motion limitations, tightness, muscle weakness, instability or balance issues, and gait concerns,” explains Riess. “Many patients have weakness affecting the medial or lateral ankle stabilizers. It’s also common to see limitations, weakness, or instability in the calf muscles. These symptoms are all related to mechanical compensation patterns in the foot. And all of these issues can be addressed with physical therapy.”

Physical therapy exercises for acute foot pain

“The exercises we use depend upon the nature of the injury or condition,” explains Riess.

Physical therapy exercises for chronic foot pain

“We tailor our approach to chronic conditions like Achilles tendinitis,” notes Riess. “If your condition is chronic, your range of motion might be fine, but weakness could be an issue. However, if we try to strengthen painful tendons too soon or too quickly, we could irritate them. Our objective is to control swelling and modify activity to safely remove irritating factors. These steps allow the foot to calm down, so we can begin the recovery process. A little bit of pain can be okay, but too much pain can put the patient in a dangerous position. That’s why it is important to have an expert guiding you through therapy. Some people think they can manage chronic foot pain themselves, but there’s a risk of doing exercises that detrimentally increase pain and cause it to linger longer.”

What is the time commitment for physical therapy?

The length of time you spend in therapy depends on whether your foot issue is acute or chronic. “If you have a mild acute condition, we might work together for four to six weeks,” says Riess. “On the other hand, chronic issues like plantar fasciitis may need several months of therapy treatment. A treatment program includes both onsite manual treatment and home exercises. We’ll monitor your progress and adjust the treatment plan accordingly. For example, we might start with weekly sessions and decrease them to every other week as you improve.”

Treatment timing has an impact on your therapy outcome

“The sooner you address foot pain, the greater the probability of a successful recovery,” notes Riess. “This is true for both acute and chronic foot pain.”

Summit Orthopedics offers personalized foot and ankle expertise

Our fellowship-trained foot and ankle physicians understand that your mobility depends on the health of your feet and ankles. If you have suffered an injury or are experiencing symptoms that make walking painful, our team of foot and ankle specialists can help with conservative treatment; proven, evidence-based surgical options; and expert rehabilitation support. Summit Orthopedics specialists have the expertise to evaluate your discomfort and develop a plan to quickly and safely get you back on your feet and on your way.

Start your journey to optimal foot health. Find your foot and ankle expert, request an appointment online, or call us at (651) 968–5201 to schedule a consultation.

Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MNPlymouth, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.

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