Why Doctors Recommend It?
A night splint is a boot that is worn to bed in order to make sure that the foot stays in a stretched position. The theory behind this is that if the foot stays stretched, there is less pain in the morning when the first steps are taken. The logic is sound, and for people who don’t ever question their doctor, they will go on in life using their Night Splint and further damaging their feet. If used for a long enough period of time further problems will develop such as back pain, leg and hip pain.
Why This Is Bad?
When looking at a healthy foot, the plantar fascia is a ligament that keeps an appropriate amount of distance from the heel and metatarsals (balls of your feet). This ligament never shortens; but it does become injured and tear, causing it to lengthen slightly. We’re not talking a drastic noticeable difference, only millimeters. But even millimeters can be devastatingly painful.
An injury to the plantar fascia can be due to a repetitive action like running, or due to an extreme downward force that puts an excessive amount of pressure on the bottom of the foot. Your body heals during rest, which is why when a bone is broken the doctors put a cast on and keep the injury at rest for 4-6 weeks. It only makes sense that muscle, ligaments and tendons do the same. The more rest you give your feet, the quicker they will heal, and when that healing process is interrupted it is painful. It’s the re-tearing of the ligament. The pain will subside once there is no more force on the ligament, meaning it’s stretched out back to where it was when the injury occurred.
Now, it makes sense why wearing a night splint will keep the pain in the morning from happening. The foot never had a chance to start healing because it was stretched out all night, and therefore no pain was felt in the morning. Wearing a night splint for a long period of time will cause the plantar fascia to heal in a lengthened state. We’re still talking millimeters of length, but when the plantar fascia heals in this elongated state you will develop flat feet.
What’s the problem with flat feet?
Flat feet put an extreme amount of pressure on the ankle bones because now they are pointing inwards. With your ankle bones pointing inwards due to the flat feet, your knees have added stress on the joint, because now they have to move differently. This is called an “abnormal gait”. It may sound very minor but the pain and irritation will travel throughout your body causing unnecessary pain that could have been avoided with a little rest.