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Relieving Plantar Fasciitis

  • Written by Kimberley Barker, BA, LMT, CNMT, NTP
footIf you have been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, or experience heel pain that usually occurs with your first steps in the morning, you are not alone. It can start as a dull, intermittent pain, which may progress to a debilitating, stabbing or searing pain in your heel when you walk, run or stand. Once the tissues warm up the pain may decrease, only to return after periods of standing, sitting or walking.

The plantar fascia is a tough, fibrous tissue that attaches to the heel bone (calcaneous) and fans forward toward the toes, supporting the arch of your foot. The fascia most commonly becomes irritated and inflamed at the point where it connects to the heel, though occasionally pain is felt mid-arch. The fascial stress placed on the calcaneus may also promote the creation of bony growths called bone spurs.

Contributing factors include: fallen arches, tight calf muscles, sudden increase in activity levels, sudden weight gain, pregnancy, overuse and wearing shoes with inadequate support.

Plantar Fasciitis may take 6 – 18 months to heal, but there are certain self-care practices you can follow that may help reduce your pain.

1. Icing your foot, especially the heel, may provide temporary relief from pain and inflammation.

2. Never walk barefoot, especially in the morning when muscles and fascia in your foot are cold and tight. Put on a supportive pair of shoes before getting out of bed.

3. Have your shoes checked for wear and proper fit. Investing in a good pair of orthotics may help alleviate some of your pain.

4. Rest. Don’t overdo it, especially if you are in pain.

foot25. Massage to all muscle groups of the leg and foot is an important part in addressing plantar fasciitis. Tightness and trigger points in the calf muscles can contribute to excess tension and pain in both the lower leg and the foot.  Muscles in the entire leg should be lengthened, as you may find that you compensate for pain by changing your gait and recruiting other muscles to walk. This can result in pain in your foot, knee, hip or back. Ideally, your massage therapist should have excellent knowledge of musculature and foot mechanics, and should avoid any deep work where bone spurs may be present. Massage for plantar fasciitis may be uncomfortable, but should not be excessively painful.

6. Stretch your feet and calves regularly as greater flexibility in these tissues makes them less susceptible to damage.

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