Plantar fasciitis

Image via Wikipedia

Plantar fasciitis, commonly misspelled plantar fascitis, or planter fashitis can be as difficult to deal with, as it is to spell.  The problem begins with pain in the heel.  Worse when waking up and taking the first steps right out of bed, this pain can bring the strongest of men down to his knees.  The main symptoms are pain in the heel and underside of foot when walking or carrying out high impact activities, and pain in the heel worse immediately after a long period of rest.

There are different theories that abound on how to treat plantar fasciitis.  We will give you our natural, drug-free approach.  First, stretch the calves.  The gastrocnemius and soleus should be stretched daily, if possible.  The easiest way to stretch the calves is to stand with your toes on a step or stair and your heels dropped off the back.  Allow your heels to slowly lower to where your toes are in a higher position than your heels.  The stretch should be felt in the calves downward towards the Achilles tendon.  This stretch is great for the muscles on the posterior side of the lower leg.  The reason for stretching the calves is this.  Think of the calves as shock absorbers for walking and running.  When the calves cannot absorb the impact because of tightness, the shock has to travel elsewhere.  This makes the plantar fascia and plantar aponeurosis absorb more impact than it probably should.

Next, pay attention to how you sleep.  If you sleep on your stomach with your feet always pointed, your calf muscles will tend to stay shortened throughout the night.  Repetition of this sleeping pattern keeps the calf muscles from being flexible and supple.  If you imagine that for almost 8 hours of the day, your calves are shortened, you will see that a change in the position of your feet during sleep can make a difference while you are awake.

Third, work on the intrinsic muscles of the foot.  When I say work on them, I mean do two things:  remove tightness in these muscles and strengthen these muscles.  Removing tightness from these muscles could mean getting a massage or learning to massage these muscles yourself.  It could also mean getting a few acupuncture sessions to reduce the pain.  Strengthening these muscles are also important, although it may not be possible if the present plantar fasciitis pain is excruciating.  There are the typical exercises that a physical therapist would encourage, such as picking up marbles and pulling a towel across the floor with the toes.  I’m sure there are other very good exercises as well.  The reason for treating the intrinsic foot muscles is that these small muscles are responsible for the finer movements of the toes and foot.  By treating these small muscles, the entire load-bearing and active functions of the feet are distributed more evenly.

Lastly, lay off the serious activity that aggravates the plantar fasciitis for a little while.  Since this is an injury that requires some time and effort to heal properly, repeated stress of the injured plantar fascia contributes to scar tissue buildup, can create tears in the tissue, and eventually you will have a less flexible plantar fascia.  Recurrence of injury will continue to plague you, if the healing process is always being interrupted.

As an acupuncturist and massage therapist, I will give you an example of how I would provide a general, natural, effective treatment that I believe works for many sufferers.

  • Acupuncture:  Gastrocnemius motor point (MP), Soleus MP, Tibialis Posterior/Anterior MP, Plantar Fasciitis point (3 needle technique), UB40, UB57, LV3, SP4.
  • Massage:  Soleus and gastrocnemius, interossei, 3 arches of foot.
  • Sciaticare Ball:  Send patient home with self-massage instructions for using Sciaticare Ball with plantar fasciitis.  Daily treatment of 5 minutes per foot, twice a day.
  • Sciaticare Penetrating Muscle Rub:  Send patient home with PMR to apply to calves and soles of feet to help increase blood flow, reduce swelling, and promote healing after treatments.  The PMR is based upon Chinese herbal “hit medicine” or dit da jow.  The herbal constituents absorb quickly into skin to heal bruises and improve circulation.
  • Foot muscle exercises:  Custom exercises to help strengthen intrinsic and extrinsic muscular imbalances.