If you experience stabbing pain in your heels with your first steps each morning, you probably suffer from plantar fasciitis (PF), inflammation of the heels caused by tiny rips in the plantar fascia. The rips are believed to occur as a result of repeated stretching, overuse, or abnormal gait. Factors like obesity, wearing ill-fitting shoes, and biomechanical issues like high arches can make matters worse. Keep reading to learn how you can relieve pain caused by plantar fasciitis.
The plantar fascia is a long, flat connective tissue found along the bottom of each foot that extends from the toes all the way to the heel. Inflammation as a result of tiny tears in this ligament causes plantar fasciitis. Resulting pain, usually during walking and exercise, can seriously impact your daily life.
Thankfully, there are particular exercises and stretches you can do at home to relieve this pain. As soon as you wake up in the morning, try stretching in bed. Hold both ends of a belt or towel and place the ball of your foot in the center. To loosen those tight calf muscles, pull the towel or belt towards your body gently while keeping your leg straight. You’ll feel the stretch in your calf. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds or more and repeat a few times with each leg.
The “runner’s lunge” is another easy way to stretch the calf muscles. Simply brace yourself against a wall or tree and move one leg back, keeping both feet completely flat on the ground (image above left). When you start to feel a stretch, hold the position for 30 seconds or more. Then bend your knees to deepen the stretch. Continue to hold for 30 more seconds and repeat thrice on each leg.
Even for those without PF, a foot massage can be one of the most pleasurable forms of massage. You can ask a friend or partner for a foot massage, but we recommend using a tennis ball.
While standing, roll the ball under your foot. Apply enough pressure to deliver a deep massage. Stop if you feel pain. This simple technique is one of the best ways to relieve PF pain and keep the foot muscles loose.
To add the element of ice to this massage, simply use a frozen water bottle instead of a tennis ball. Do this for about 10 minutes at the end of the day before bedtime.
You can also use a tennis ball to soothe muscles in the sides of your hips and legs. With the tennis ball on the ground, lie on top of it and roll it along the side of your leg, working from above the knee to the hip.
If you decide to visit a masseuse in order to deal with heel discomfort, make sure to ask for a deep tissue massage. The pressure will loosen up your muscle tissues, remove toxins, and improve circulation.
Acupressure, developed in China thousands of years ago, is a type of massage that focuses on trigger points to relive discomfort and tension. These points are also called meridians. Professionals will begin by locating the most painful point on the bottom of your foot and applying pressure. They will then move on to specific, named trigger points on the foot, head, hands, and legs. Some will intermittently soak your feet in warm water. With some research, you can easily do an acupressure massage on yourself.
Acupuncture, another Chinese therapy, consists of the insertion of tiny, thin needles at certain points on the body. Often used to treat pain, acupuncture can be just what you need for PF. According to professionals, those with plantar fasciitis should expect to see results after 6-12 treatments.
When combined with conventional treatment, acupuncture has been proven as a successful method to reduce PF pain.
Only a medical professional can diagnose an individual with plantar fasciitis. Make sure to see a doctor before trying a night splint. The device is worn overnight to reduce tension and stop PF pain before it starts. However, since night splints are uncomfortable and bulky, many patients opt for other remedies. Pictured at left, a night splint is designed to maintain elongation of the following:
When a person sleeps, the ankle joint usually assumes a plantarflexed position. This causes the plantar fascia and surrounding musculature to shorten and adapt to a state of non-function. With a splint, tension within those muscles is retained throughout the night. Functional lengths are maintained and the sudden stress your foot undergoes in the morning with your first steps is reduced or eliminated.
Allowing the foot muscles to heal is key in eliminating heel pain. Those suffering from PF need to make sure their shoes aren’t making it worse. Look online or speak with a shoe store clerk to find shoes that will help your condition. Your foot needs to be well cushioned and supported, whether you are running, walking, or working on your feet. Check out the following brands:
Many causes of PF, such as irregular step or badly-fitting shoes, can be corrected. But some, like an abnormal arch shape, can’t. If heel pain is preventing you from living a normal life even after you’ve taken steps to prevent and relieve it, it’s time to see a professional.
Your doctor will recommend a specific treatment plan based on your needs and the severity of the condition. This plan may include:
Different shoes/arch supports
Surgery (5% of cases)
Reducing pain and preventing a reoccurrence so that you can resume your normal life is the goal of treatment plans. Your plan may last anywhere from six months to over a year depending on your situation. Remember, following your doctor’s orders to the T is vital in successful pain reduction and healing.
In severe cases, a doctor may recommend surgery. During the procedure, the surgeon will cut part of the plantar fascia in order to relieve inflammation and release tension.