The alarm has just gone off and before you can even open your eyes, you are dreading it. It’s not the drop off at your kid’s school. It’s not the drive to work. It’s not your job. It’s the simple act of putting your feet on the floor. Your heel and foot pain is so severe, you dread those first few steps. The pain and burning that last until you walk it out for a few minutes, only for it to return after you stand or walk for too long, or even after you sit then get up to walk throughout the day.
Most likely, the pain you are experiencing is due to common foot problem known as plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis occurs when the ligament, or thick band of tissue, that runs from your heels to your toes becomes inflamed. This tissue is known as fascia and it holds the muscles of your feet in place and supports the arches of your feet.
The fascia runs across the bottom of your foot under the arch and acts like the string of a bow absorbing the shock of your foot hitting the ground.
When the tension of the fascia is stretched beyond its limit, tears in the fascia may happen and a strain injury to the ligament may occur. The strain to the fascia will cause the body to respond with inflammation setting in around the injured tissue, causing terrible pain in your heel and across the bottom of your foot.
There are several factors that increase your chances of developing plantar fasciitis. Sudden weight gain, obesity, diabetes, excessive running, wearing the wrong shoes, arthritis, foot abnormalities and aging are all potential causes for plantar fasciitis to occur.
How to STOP the PAIN!
Plantar fasciitis affects one out of 10 people at some point in their lives. It is important to recognize the issue and to be proactive in the treatment of plantar fasciitis as soon as the pain begins in order to avoid chronic issues with your feet.
The following is a short list of ways to help alleviate plantar fasciitis pain from its initial onset.
- Ice is your friend!
As with all injuries that involve inflammation, ice is extremely effective in reducing the blood flow around the injured fascia tears, thereby reducing the inflammation.
When an injury occurs, inflammation happens due to the release of histamine by cells in the injured tissues. Histamine causes vasodilation, or widening of the blood vessels to happen causing blood to leak into the injured area causing inflammation and swelling of the injured tissue to occur.
When ice is applied to injured tissues, it causes the blood vessels to narrow, this narrowing is known as vasoconstriction. The narrowing of the blood vessels thereby reduces the amount of blood leaking into the injured region and pushes out the swelling and inflammation around the injury.
Ice can also numb the nerve fibers causing the sensory and motor nerve conduction to be reduced in the injured tissues. This nerve conduction reduction minimizes the pain caused by the nerves.
The most effective way to use ice in order to reduce inflammation and swelling is to directly apply ice packs to the bottoms of your feet for 15-20 minutes, then remove the ice for 45 minutes. Repeat this process 3-4 times per day.
- You have to STRETCH the muscles in your feet!
Plantar fasciitis pain can come on with your first steps of the day. This happens because as you rest and sleep, the plantar fasciitis ligament contracts. If you experience morning foot pain, it is very important to take precautionary measures to prevent the pain from setting in before you get out of bed. Stretching and strengthening the muscles in your feet, as well as your Achilles tendons and calves is a crucial step in preventing plantar fasciitis pain.
The following stretches should be done before you take that first morning step.
- Foot Flex Stretches. Before getting out of bed, lay on your back with your feet together. Flex your feet up and down ten times careful not to point your toes. This stretch will loosen up the muscles and ligaments in the feet that have become tight during rest.
- Air Alphabet Stretches. While laying on your back and using your big toe as the pointer, trace the letters of the alphabet in the air with each foot. This will stretch the muscles and ligaments that support the arch of the foot.
- Towel Stretches. Continue to lay on your back. Lift your leg straight into the air and wrap a towel around the ball of your foot. Pull the towel with both hands stretching the ankle and the foot. Your knee should be straight and your foot should be pulled so that your toes point toward your nose. Repeat this stretch ten times with each foot. This stretches the calves as well as the plantar fasciitis ligament.
It is also important to stretch your feet before and after exercising, and at the end of your day. The following stretches will help ease plantar fasciitis pain throughout the day.
- Heel and Toe Raise. Stand with your feet together. Rock back on your heels then forward, high on the balls of your feet keeping your toes on the ground. Do this stretch 30 times at a steady pace. This stretch helps increase flexibility in the feet and calves and increases blood flow to the feet.
- Step Stretch. Stand on a step with your heels hanging off the step while supporting your body by holding on to rails, or by placing your hands on the wall. Drop your heel below the step until you feel a stretch in your calves. Hold this position for 20 seconds. Do this stretch ten times while alternating between bent knees and straight knees. This stretch will work the calves and Achilles tendons.
- Water Bottle Stretch. Take a frozen water bottle and place it under one foot. Roll the water bottle back and forth under your foot while applying a steady pressure for 2 minutes. This stretch can be done sitting or standing. Repeat with the other foot. This stretch loosens the fascia on the bottom of the foot while reducing inflammation.
- Massage your feet AND make sure the bones are properly aligned!
Plantar fasciitis causes adhesions to occur from the strain of the muscles in the tissues of the feet. One of the most beneficial techniques to break down these adhesions is deep tissue massage.
Deep tissue massage is a therapy used to treat chronic muscle tension by applying pressure to the deepest layer of muscle tissues, fascia, tendons.
For plantar fasciitis, the muscles of the feet, fascia, Achilles tendon and calf muscles are treated.
Deep tissue massage releases muscle tension, breaks up adhesions and scar tissue enabling the muscles to loosen, toxins to be release and circulation of blood and oxygen to be restored to the areas affected by plantar fasciitis.
Daily self massage of the feet is recommend to help keep muscles loose for people who suffer from plantar fasciitis, but seeing a professional massage therapist to ensure that the adhesions caused by plantar fasciitis are properly released is a great idea.
Making sure the structure of your feet are properly maintained is also a necessary step in reducing pain and preventing plantar fasciitis.
There are 26 bones and 33 joints in the human foot. When the bones are not properly aligned, dysfunction in the joints occur that places unnecessary tension on the muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Chiropractic care will help to ensure that the bones and joints are in proper alignment and articulating as they should through gentle chiropractic adjustments to the feet. Chiropractic can also make sure that your gait, or manner of walking, is not affecting your feet.
- Proper footwear is a must!
Most likely if you are experiencing foot pain, you spend a great deal of time on your feet. Having a good pair of shoes in order to support your feet is a very important part of plantar fasciitis treatment. Your shoes should be comfortable, but more importantly give the support your feet need.
Shoes with shock absorbing soles and flexible mid-soles as well as a good support for the arches are best. Your shoes should be the proper size and accommodate for how you distribute your weight when standing.
Orthotic inserts are also a useful tool in helping with plantar fasciitis pain. Orthotics are removable shoe inserts that support arches, provide comfort and support for your feet.
The best type of orthotics are ones that are custom designed for you. Custom orthotics are designed to treat the abnormal motion in your feet. They are made from casts or scans of your feet and are fit according to weight distribution and stresses in the biomechanics of your foot.
- Rest your feet!
As with any other type of strain injury, it is very important to rest the injured area. Your feet are no exception.
It can be a difficult task to find ways to rest your feet, as most people spend a significant time throughout the day standing. However, chronic foot pain and repeat episodes of plantar fasciitis is more likely to occur if adequate rest is not given to the injured area.
It is important to make sure that you take short breaks from standing throughout the day if you have plantar fasciitis pain. If you feel pain setting in, get off of your feet for awhile. Ignoring the pain will make it worse. At night, try to elevate your feet. It typically takes 6-12 weeks for a strain injury to heal properly, this will only be made longer if proper rest is not given to your injured feet!
Conclusion: Be Proactive!
While this article gives you a few of many different ways to treat plantar fasciitis, it is important to be proactive. Taking care of your feet prior to any pain is essential. Wearing good shoes, resting, maintaining a healthy weight and taking care of your body in general will decrease the chance that you will develop plantar fasciitis.
Once plantar fasciitis has set it, seeking treatment from medical professionals like chiropractors, physical therapists, podiatrists, and massage therapist, will more often than not decrease the time it will take for your injury to heal.
Seeking preventative care from these medical professionals prior to any pain is always your best bet in stopping the pain from starting!