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What is Plantar Fasciitis? (Plus 3 Simple and Effective Ways to Treat It)

Feb. 20, 2017

Do you have severe heel pain during your first 3-4 steps after you’ve been sitting down or when you first wake up in the morning?

If so, you might just be suffering from “plantar fasciitis”, which is a fancy term for irritation of the plantar fascia.

First off, what is the plantar fascia?

The plantar fascia is a very broad ligament that starts at the front of your heel and then fans out along the arch of your foot, ultimately ending at the base of your toes.

It serves a very important function in your foot, along with several other muscles: it helps support your arch while you walk, providing some shock absorption in the process.

Next, what causes the plantar fascia to become so irritated?

In general, you can consider plantar fasciitis to be an overuse injury, meaning that a little bit of irritation over a prolonged period of time leads to pain and inflammation.

If you think about how many steps you take in a day, especially if you’re pretty active, you can start to understand why the plantar fascia can be so sensitive at times.

Other contributing factors to plantar fasciitis include your foot structure (a low arch puts more stress on the plantar fascia), poor foot wear and tightness in the Achilles tendon and calf muscles.

Now that we know what the plantar fascia is and what causes it to get so irritated, what can you do about it?

Let me just put out a little disclaimer regarding the successful treatment of plantar fasciitis before I give you any tips for easing the pain: it can be extremely difficult to get rid of, especially if it’s been nagging you for several months.

This makes sense if you again think about how much stress goes through the arch of your foot on a daily basis when you’re walking, let alone if you’re jogging, running, hiking or playing sports.

With that being said, there are some simple things you can do to start easing the pain right away (you can skip to the video for these tips as well).

3 Simple Ways to Eliminate Plantar Fasciitis Pain

1. Stretch the plantar fascia. Stretching the plantar fascia is very easy to do and can relieve tension in the ligament structure. Simply cross your leg, pull your ankle back towards you, and pull your toe back at the same time. When done correctly, you should feel a nice pull through the ligament, which will also visibly pop out along your arch.

2. Self-massage the plantar fascia. Massaging the plantar fascia helps break up scar tissue and encourage healing (although it can be painful!). The easiest way to do this is to put a tennis ball on the ground, place your foot on top of it, and gently massage the arch of your foot along the ball. This can be quite painful at first, so make sure to start with low pressure. Some people also use frozen bottles of water and get the cooling/anti-inflammatory effect at the same time.

3. Stretch your calf muscles. Your Achilles tendon attaches to the back of your heel and then blends into your 2 large calf muscles. Functionally, tension in this tendon places tension on the plantar fascia as well, so stretching your calf muscles frequently is a very effective way to relieve tension and pain in the plantar fascia. My favorite way to stretch the calf muscles is to use a staircase and hang your heel of the back until you feel a nice pull high up on the calf, near the back of the knee. Hold these stretches for 30-60 seconds at a time and repeat 2-3 times on each leg, up to 5 times/day.

Following these 3 simple techniques on a daily basis should give you some level of relief when dealing with plantar fasciitis and heel pain.

As I mentioned above, completely eliminating plantar fasciitis pain can be tricky at times. If you’re still dealing with constant pain or just want to get rid of it faster, consider the following 2 additional options.

2 Additional Options for Eliminating Heel Pain

1. Friction massage by a physical therapist. Performing the right kind of friction massage on your plantar fasciitis can be difficult to do. Working with one of our PTs allows you to get more aggressive with the massage and heal faster.

2. Consider custom orthotics. One of the best way to relieve the constant stress placed on the plantar fascia is simply to support the arch of the foot. For some, this is a short-term strategy, and for those with a history of heel pain, this is a good long-term strategy. Others will wear these custom orthotics during more demanding activities only, such as when hiking or playing certain sports.

So there you have it! Plantar fasciitis is not only painful and annoying, but it’s also very difficult to get rid of. What a treat!

I hope this information helps you relieve your heel pain.

Cheers!

-Luke

Here’s the video I mentioned above 🙂 There’s also a second video demonstrating the calf and soleus stretches

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