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Why use a Night Splint?

Have you been experiencing consistent pain issues with your foot or ankle due to plantar fasciitis or achilles tendonitis?  If so you might want to use a night splint as part of your treatment or recovery plan.  So why use a night splint?

What are Night Splints Used For?

Night splints can be used to treat many feet or ankle related issues.  Night Splints can be used to treat plantar fasciitis and achilles tendonitis as a few examples.  Most people sleep with our feet pointed down. The splint will hold the foot with your toes pointed up.  This “toes up” position applies a constant, gentle stretch to the plantar fascia.  The splint will also stretch the Achilles tendon, that resides at the back of the heel, preventing it from contracting during the night.

Night splints can be worn every night for up to several months. You can gradually reduce how often you wear the splint as you plantar fasciitis or achilles tendonitis pain symptoms subside. They can be bulky, but they do tend to work really well and you can stop wearing them when the pain from plantar fasciitis or achilles tendonitis has subsided.

The great thing about night splints is that you can use them in conjunction with other treatments such as RICE, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and other orthotics like a walking boot.

The Role of Night Splints

The use of night splint is based on the idea of maintaining the stretch on the plantar fasciitis or achilles tendon, depending on what issue you are having.   Normal muscle tone in the ankle wants to cause the ankle joint to assume a “plantar flexed” position, or basically, your toes pointed like a ballerina. With foot pointed like that plantar fascia or achilles tendon, flex and shorten.   Which cause the dreaded first-morning step issues.

Different Types Of Night Splints

There are two primary types of splints for dealing with plantar fasciitis – the dorsal and the boot. The difference is that they are constructed on opposite sides of the foot.

The Dorsal splint has a hard plastic support that sits along the shin and top of the foot,  to keep the foot firmly in a 90-degree angle, while leaving the heel and arch free to breathe.

The Boot splint is exactly as it sounds. The back of the brace is on the back side of the leg and calf and runs under the foot. It is generally a larger brace than the dorsal style, and of course looks like a boot.

When do I use a Night Splint?

This may seem obvious based on the name, but when should you actually wear the night splint.  The night splint should be put on before you go to sleep and to wear the splint all night while you are sleeping.  The splint should be removed if you need to get up during the night, as splints are generally not weight bearing devices.

If you can not tolerate the device during the night because it is bothering your sleep habits, you can use it as a “lazy” treatment.  Meaning that you can use the splint when you are watching tv or relaxing on a couch or chair.  Sometimes this “lazy” treatment will allow the user to get comfortable with the splint.  Then the user will start wearing the splint to sleep in.

Night splints are not usually used as the first line of treatment for plantar fasciitis or achilles tendonitis.  Generally after first using OTC insole/orthotic therapy, changes in footwear, stretching, NSAIDs and modifying activities. are tried prior to using a night splint. They are usually a third or fourth treatment option, so if you are to this point you really should take the use of the night splint seriously and use the device as directed.

How Long Should Night Splints be Worn?

This really depends on the severity of your injury or pain.  Some people report the night splint has helped in a matter of nights.  Others report that it takes weeks for the night splint to help with pain relief.

It is best to start wearing the night splint for at least 1 hour at a time, with the goal of consistent wear between 4 -8 hours a day.

So generally night splints can be used up to several months.  In reality, it really depends on you.  The average length of time the splint is worn is around two weeks.  At this point, some users start to become uncomfortable, or can not tolerate the night splint any longer due to comfort or sleep interruptions due to wearing the splint.  That is why it is important to get a night splint that is comfortable to wear for extended periods of time.

Though the night splint might be uncomfortable to some, the benefits of wearing the splint for only a few hours can make a huge difference in the treatment of your issue.  However, when you wake up with less pain, it will make you want to wear the brace even more.

Summing it Up – Why use a Night Splint

Night splints offer a good treatment for plantar fasciitis and achilles tendonitis.  When the devices are used correctly that can be very effective in treating the symptoms and pain for plantar fasciitis and achilles tendonitis.  If used along with one or more effective treatment plans like RICE, shoe modifications, orthotics, and stretching exercises the night splint can be very effective.

That being said, the key is making sure you wear the night splint for plantar fasciitis consistently.  Without consistent use, these splints will not be beneficial to your pain relief.  If you are having plantar fasciitis pain, it is important to see a doctor for a checkup.  You deserve to feel better and get back to your day-to-day activities.  With the right care and treatment plan, you will be back on health feet in no time.

Other Resources

Resources:

https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/ug3000

https://www.podiatrytoday.com/secrets-to-patient-adherence-with-night-splints

 

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