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Plantar Fasciitis, A Real Pain in the Foot

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Natick Massage | Sudbury Massage | Turtle Dance BodyworkHave you ever rolled out of bed first thing in the morning, stepped on the floor and had a pain in your heel that made you want to crawl back under the covers? Chances are you have experienced plantar fasciitis.

This condition is an inflammatory response, caused by small tears in the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot, known as the plantar fascia, where it attaches at the heel. The pain sensation is typically strongest first thing in the morning, because overnight, without pressure applied while standing or walking, the plantar fascia has a chance to contract (shrink). With that first step, the pull on the injured tissue can be excruciating.

The most common causes of plantar fasciitis are:

  • An increase or change in physical activity (very common in runners)
  • Wearing shoes with inadequate arch support (flip-flops are notorious for contributing to this condition)
  • Prolonged standing
  • Carrying extra body weight
  • Tight calf muscles, which apply tension around the heel into the plantar fascia
  • Flat feet or very high arches

Solutions? Massage, naturally! Releasing tension in the base of the foot, and the front and back of the calf with deep massage can go a long way toward relieving this painful condition and promoting healing. A well-trained massage therapist will know what tissues are involved, and which ones to work on.

There are several things you can do yourself. These include:

  • A simple exercise of rolling the bottom of the foot against a tennis ball on the floor (or golf ball, if you can handle the stronger sensation)
  • Rolling out the muscles on the back and front of the calf with a rolling pin
  • Gentle stretches of the calf muscles (might be best to talk with a physical therapist about appropriate stretches and how much to do; in this case there really is such thing as “too much of a good thing”).
  • Foot braces while sleeping have been shown to be very effective, maintaining a flexed foot, which helps the muscle and fascia stay lengthened. A commonly recommended and locally available option is called the “Strassburg Sock”, an elastic sock that fits up to the knee and uses a strap to hold the foot in a flexed position. This type of brace can be much more comfortable than the boot, another commonly recommended solution. The sock is less bulky, making it easier to sleep with.

Recovery can be slow even with regular attention, depending on the severity of the injury and the consistency of the aggravating conditions. Ignored however, recovery can take much longer, and the pain can become debilitating.

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