What is that pain in your heel that’s got you holding one foot while hopping up and down on the other? You gingerly step down again and you can still feel it, a sharp, stabbing pain deep inside your foot. Plantar Fasciitis may be the culprit.
Your plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue on the sole of your foot that connects your heel bone to your toes. It has two main functions; it provides support to the arch of your foot and it is a shock absorber, reducing the impact each time your foot strikes the floor. It’s basically a spring that maintains the integrity of your foot. When it’s under too much stress it can develop small tears, become irritated and inflamed. Some research suggests that there may also be a breakdown of collagen in the tissue as well as inflammation.
Plantar fasciitis is most common in runners, and athletes that do a lot of jumping or dancing. However, there are a number of possible contributing factors to the development of plantar fasciitis:
A sudden change in activity levels such as an increase in training.
Late stages of pregnancy.
If you are on your feet all day, especially on hard surfaces.
Wearing high heels, reduces the shock absorbing function of the plantar fascia.
Wearing stiff construction type boots, decreases the flexibility of the foot.
Mechanical factors, like overpronation.
So what can you do to alleviate plantar fasciitis?
Get checked out
Sure, Dr. Internet is great. But you should have your primary care practitioner check you out, too. It’s wise to rule out any other health or structural issues that can cause foot pain.
Typical treatment approaches:
Temporarily modify activities to take some stress off the foot.
Your Doctor may talk to you about orthotics.
Use of a tension night splint, this holds your foot in a position that stretches the plantar fascia.
Let’s focus on the stretching and massage...
Plantar fasciitis is felt most often first thing in the morning because the plantar fascia tends to tighten when you are at rest. If you’re suffering from heel pain, try these self care techniques before you get out of bed in the morning:
Flex your foot up and down 10 times before standing.
Do big toe stretches. With your foot extended in front of you as far as possible while still in reach, grasp and pull your big toe back toward your ankle. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat three times. If reaching for your toes is uncomfortable try placing your foot on a towel on the floor and use this to pull your big toe back towards your ankle.
Try towel stretches. Fold a towel lengthwise and put under the arch of your foot, holding both ends in your hands. Gently pull your foot towards you. You should feel a stretch on the back of your calf. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat three times.
Self massage. Either using your thumbs to pull apart the tissue on the bottom of your foot, or sit on the edge of the bed and roll your foot back and forth over a ball for about 2 mins.
Put shoes on (or slippers with support) before you get out of bed.
You can do these same stretches and massage throughout the day when it’s possible to take your shoes off, such as after work, before exercising, or before bed. During these stretches you should feel some pulling, but not pain. Stop and take a break or stretch more gently if it does begin to hurt.
Some studies have found that massage combined with stretching works better at treating plantar fasciitis than other medical treatments.
If you’re suffering from heel pain, massage by an expert may help. A massage therapist who understands all of the muscle groups in your legs and feet and how they connect will know how to massage your tissues and release the tension that can cause pain.
In addition to working directly on the plantar fascia, massage can reduce stiffness and tension in the muscles of the lower leg which can in turn relieve tension in the plantar fascia itself.
Massage promotes better circulation which allows your tired muscles to get the oxygen and nutrients they need to feel strong again. All of this promotes healing and helps those tissues be more limber and ready for action so they don’t sustain more damage as you go about your day.
We’ll find a solution
A combination of targeted massage and stretches can go a long way in healing hurting feet and preventing plantar fasciitis in the future. The next time you get out of bed and feel that familiar stabbing pain, take a few minutes for stretches and massage, and you’ll be up on your feet— literally— in no time!