Thursday, July 14, 2011

What Is Plantar Fasciitis?

If you’ve ever gone running or walking and awakened the next day to find that you’re hobbling around, barely able to walk, you may have plantar fasciitis. The pain in the bottom of your feet can even occur after simply sitting for long periods of time.

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photo by eduardo_m

The plantar fascia are the supporting ligaments that run across the bottom of your foot. They connect your heel to your toes and support the arches of your feet. When these ligaments become inflamed, plantar fasciitis pain is usually felt in the heel(s) of one or both feet.

Some triggers for plantar fasciitis include:

  • Walking or running for long periods of time, especially on hard surfaces such as asphalt or concrete
  • Being overweight (Yes, I had that risk factor, too.)
  • Over-pronation (your foot rolls too far inward when you walk or run)
  • High arches or flat feet
  • Arthritis
  • Poorly fitting shoes

I first realized my tendency toward plantar fasciitis pain after walking the asphalt track at a local elementary school in during one of my failed attempts at weight-loss. I could barely stand when I got out of bed the next day. I hobbled around, holding on to furniture, seriously doubting that I was going to be able to go to church.

Thankfully, the pain decreased as I moved around a bit, as often happens with plantar fasciitis. However, I have suffered with it in the years since to the point that, when sitting at a restaurant or movie theater for awhile, my first steps, upon standing, are always cautious.

As I’ve lost weight, I’ve had less problems with plantar fasciitis – especially as related to just sitting for long periods of time. However, I have also discovered a number of techniques that help to alleviate the pain. I want to share those with you in case you, too, suffer from mild to moderate plantar fasciitis pain.

Use a resistance band to stretch your feet before getting out of bed. Plantar fasciitis pain is caused by the ligaments tightening up, so stretching them helps tremendously. Loop the band around your foot, just under your toes and pull the band gently, but firmly toward you so that heel is pushed out farther than your toes.

Rotate your feet at the ankles. First rotate your foot in a clockwise motion, then, counter-clockwise. Do this for a couple of minutes before getting out of bed or standing to loosen the plantar fascia ligaments.

Roll a frozen soda bottled under your foot. I keep an old 2-liter soda bottle filled with water in the freezer. I’ve learned to ice my feet after every long run. I put socks on and roll my feet back and forth on top of the soda bottle. I was surprised at how well this works.

Roll a tennis ball under your foot. This is the same principal as the soda bottle, but I like the soda bottle better because the ice feels good.

Always stretch your feet after a run or walk. You can do a traditional runner’s stretch. You can also straighten your leg out and pull your foot toward you, like you’d do with the resistance band. I always hold these two stretches for at least a minute or so after a long run.

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photo by luluemon athletica

Try inserts. Before I got my first pair of properly-fitted shoes, I wore Dr. Scholl’s inserts in all my shoes. They helped tremendously. I’ve also heard that it’s a good idea to wear good supportive shoes, even in the house. I’m a Southern girl, so I just can’t make myself do that, but if your pain is high enough, you might be willing to try it.

Get fitted for shoes. As, I mentioned, once I got the right size shoe, a lot of my heel (and knee) pain subsided. I do still have pain in my heels after a long run, but I no longer wear inserts in my shoes.

Try Strassburg socks. Strassburg socks are designed to keep the plantar fascia pulled up in the stretch position as you sleep, alleviating much of the pain felt in the morning. (Note: I haven’t personally tried the socks because my pain hasn’t been so bad since taking some of the steps above.)

Take ibuprofen. If the pain is really bad, an anti-inflammatory, over-the-counter may help.

Obviously, if none of these at-home remedies help, you’ll probably want to see your doctor.

Do you – or have you ever – suffered from plantar fasciitis? What helped to alleviate your pain?

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10 comments:

  1. Back in 2004, I was facing surgery due to chronic plantar fasciitis and heel spurs (calcium deposits due to chronic inflammation of the tendon, thanks to my autoimmune arthritis). I was desperately trying to avoid cortisone injections and surgery, so I went to my chiropractor. She did ultrasound therapy on my heel twice a week, and my heels were healed within two weeks. I haven't had a problem since then. Not all chiropractors do ultrasound therapy. Be sure to ask before agreeing to commit to a long term relationship with your chiro. ;0)

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  2. I have it! :(  I developed it during my recovery from bunion surgery and a stress fracture in my foot.  You listed all the remedies that I have been doing.  The frozen soda bottle feels the best for me.  I hope once I get back to my regular fitness routines it goes away for good!  It is painful!!

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  3. I had it and it does seem to come back occasionally. Another stretch that seems to help is to place one foot on a step (with your heel hanging off the step) and apply slight weight on the front half of that foot. Hard to explain by writing it but hope this helps.

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  4. No, it's not fun at all. The thought of it going away for good sounds good
    to me. Mine has definitely improved as I've lost weight. Can't blame my poor
    feet for revolting when they were carrying around so much extra weight. :-)

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  5. I think I can picture what you're saying. I can see where that would help
    stretch the fascia, too. I'll have to try that.

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  6. I have had it in both feet. Had surgery in '08 which was a wonderful success. No other treatments helped. Tried shots, physical therapy, orthotics, night splints...nothing worked. Skip ahead to 2011, I had surgery at end of March and it's not healing as well. I feel like I am going to be in pain forever. And the bad thing, I don't have insurance anymore so can't afford any more doctors visits. Hope you find some relief in yours.

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  7. GREAT information! I have been dealing with this for over 2 years now. It has gotten better in the past year for some reason, but I've noticed it more this summer. I'm guessing my flips and slides aren't the best for it, but, in this instance, the pain isn't yet bad enough for me to give up my comfy trendy shoes. ;) I've noticed that it is the worst after I've walked a lot (like all day at Disney World) and then rest and stand back up. OUCH! I'm going to try to institute some of these stretching ideas and may even get myself a 2 liter bottle for bad flair-ups! Thanks for the tips!

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  8. Oh, I could write a BOOK on PF!  LOL!! It's what's derailed two of my last three attempts at running!  The number one most important thing that has helped me was to strengthen my calves.  The stronger they are, they more load they can carry, as opposed to my joints/ligaments.  After strength, I would say changing my running form ~ going from a heel strike to a midfoot strike helped TREMENDOUSLY!!!
    Thirdly, training myself to walk barefoot around the house for most of the day.  I started slow, just about 20 minutes at a time or so, and worked up to all day.  This works the tendons in my feet (so they were no longer dependent on "arch support") and makes them stronger and able to support themselves.I still get little PF flare ups occasionally, after I've been on my feet all day or something, but it doesn't last long and a few stretches and some ice fix it right up....

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  9. Back in 2004, I was facing surgery due to chronic plantar fasciitis and heel spurs (calcium deposits due to chronic inflammation of the tendon, thanks to my autoimmune arthritis). I was desperately trying to avoid cortisone injections and surgery, so I went to my chiropractor. She did ultrasound therapy on my heel twice a week, and my heels were healed within two weeks. I haven't had a problem since then. Not all chiropractors do ultrasound therapy. Be sure to ask before agreeing to commit to a long term relationship with your chiro. ;0)

    ReplyDelete
  10. We offers prime services and solutions, with the goal of providing the best and latest technology in Plantar Fasciitis at highly competitive prices.

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