Is Your Foot Pain from Plantar Fasciitis?
Do you get a stiff, achy, or sharp pain at the base of your heel on the inside when you take your first steps in the morning, only to find it goes away in a few minutes after walking around for a while? Or do you get an achy, tired pain near the balls of your feet after walking a lot? If so, you could be suffering from a condition called Plantar Fasciitis.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
“Plantar” is the bottom surface of your foot, “Fascia” refers to the tissue behind the sole of your feet, and “-itis” means inflammation. So, simply put, Plantar Fasciitis is just a fancy term to describe inflammation of the tissue in the sole of your foot.
Fascia, however, is a very remarkable tissue in our bodies. It is like a transparent, intricate web which covers every muscle, soft-tissue structure, bone, and organ in the body. What is even more astounding, is that all fascia in our body is continuous ie. Unlike bones, and muscles, fascia has no start or end point! Fascia provides the structural scaffolding to our bodies and gives us our form, without which we would just be a big heap of bones and tissue!
So why does the plantar fascia sometimes get inflamed? The answer to that will vary from individual to individual, but in general, the inflammation will come from build-up of stress in the fascia. In theory, the stress on the plantar fascia could be coming from any part of the body (as all fascia is continuous), but I usually find the main culprits are the hips and the feet.
The way I get my clients to visualise this is to imagine you are wearing a full body stocking. If any part of the stocking is tugged, you would see the “pull” transferred through the stocking to other areas. This is exactly what happens with fascia.
People with Plantar Fasciitis often (but not always) have lower arches in their feet, or even flat feet. If you are not sure if you have a low arch, ask someone to try sliding a finger under your foot from the inside while you are standing. If they cannot get their finger under at all, then you most likely have a low arch. Without a well-shaped arch, your plantar fascia will not operate well, biomechanically, and excessive strains may develop in the fascia.
Another common factor I find is to do with hip position and stability. Quite commonly, people have a forward or obliquely tilted pelvis, stemming from imbalances in the hip stabilizing muscles. This can create the effect of putting the fascia on the back of the leg on a permanent stretch, which in turn transfers the stress to the plantar fascia at its weakest point.
Weight can also play a role in this condition. People who are overweight will naturally be carrying far greater stresses on their Plantar Fascia.
Treatment and Self Help
If you suspect you may have Plantar Fasciitis, it would be wise to visit your doctor, or a knowledgeable registered massage therapist. Your therapist will take a detailed client history and carry out a number of simple tests to assess if you are likely to suffering from Plantar Fasciitis.
Manual treatment for Plantar Fasciitis will usually involve techniques to help reduce any local inflammation and to loosen and hydrating your fascia. Techniques such as myofascial release and trigger point therapy can be very helpful in releasing muscles which may be causing imbalances in your hips, knee and feet.
The treatment should also include an exercise prescription, specifically selected to suit your underlying issues. As it is common to have weak arches associated with this condition, you will quite likely be given exercises to strengthen the arches of your feet.
If you took the test above and found that your arches are low a simple exercise you can try out is to try and pick up a piece of tissue on the floor with your feet. Do this 20-30 times each day or until your feet feel tired. Another alternative is to walk on the beach, trying to grab the sand with your feet with each step.
Depending on the severity of your condition, the prognosis for Plantar Fasciitis is usually excellent, but it can take a few months of treatment and perseverance with the exercises to recover fully.