by: Dr. Daniel Zagst
(NaturalNews) Plantar fasciitis is a common condition experienced by over two million people in the U.S. Pain and inflammation at the inside/bottom of the heel cannot only prevent someone from enjoying mobility, but may indicate a problem elsewhere in the kinetic chain of the body. Although there are several medical treatments available for plantar fasciitis including medications, injections, and splinting, they may only provide temporary relief. There are several conservative approaches that people can do at home to prevent and treat a case of plantar fasciitis comfortably and effectively to avoid unnecessary medical expenses.
The plantar fascia is a thick piece of connective tissue that supports the arch of the foot and provides a spring-like function to absorb energy when walking or running. It runs from the front of the calcaneus (heel bone) to the base of the toes, with fibers running up the back of the foot into the Achilles tendon. Before the advent of heel-supported running shoes, cases of plantar fasciitis were less common. The recent comeback of minimalist shoes and the promotion of mid-foot strike while running are in response to better understanding of the function of the plantar fascia. Landing on your heel when running sends a shock wave up the body two to three times your weight, forcing the weaker muscles on the front of your shins to overwork. Heel running may lead to plantar fasciitis, shin splints, runner's knee, and many other injuries. Using a mid-foot strike, the plantar fascia absorbs the energy and transfers it to forward motion via the much larger and stronger calf muscles in a spring-like fashion.
Who gets plantar fasciitis?
Someone experiencing plantar fasciitis typically notices pain on the inside of the heel that is usually most painful during the first steps in the morning. Although athletes are more likely to develop plantar fasciitis, it is also commonly found in overweight populations. It's estimated that 10 percent of the population will experience it at some time in their life. This type of injury is repetitive in nature, and does not develop overnight, nor will it disappear overnight. Poor walking/running biomechanics combined with a fallen arch puts stress on the plantar fascia and leads to micro-tearing and scar tissue formation. If left uncorrected, this can lead to inflammation and spiral out of control. Preventing plantar fasciitis from occurring is much easier than correcting a chronic case.
Conservative alternatives to injections and medication
There are several methods to relieve plantar fasciitis that can be performed at home with objects you already have. Start by stretching your calf muscles. This can be done by standing with your toes on a step and your heels hanging off, and gently let your heels approach the floor. In order to stretch out the plantar fascia, sit with one leg extended in front of you, hold each end of a towel and sling it around the toes of the extended foot and gently pull your toes toward you. To combat the pain from inflammation, freeze a plastic bottle of water and roll it underneath the affected foot. This provides a massage of the fascia as well as pain relief while allowing you to control the pressure. A more aggressive approach to break up scar tissue can be done by rolling a tennis ball, golf ball, or bouncy ball under the foot and applying varying degrees of downward pressure. The goal of this is to break up long-standing scar tissue that may be causing the inflammation. Whenever this exercise is performed, it is important to follow it with stretching and ice. Plantar fasciitis may be a stubborn condition taking months to relieve. Additional therapies like chiropractic, massage, and acupuncture can provide additional results and modalities that medical doctors can't offer like IASTM, ART, and myofascial release; all of which have shown their effectiveness in treating plantar fasciitis.