The plantar fascia is the thick piece of tissue that covers the bottom of your foot, running from the heel to the toes. When this tissue is injured, it can lead to plantar fasciitis, otherwise known as “stabbing heel pain.” The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says about two million people come under treatment for it each year. In this post, I will touch on a few common remedies for it, but right now I’m most interested in looking at massage for plantar fasciitis.
Causes of Plantar Fasciitis
The sole of your foot is a fascinating bit of engineering. In the words of the Mayo Clinic, “Your plantar fascia is in the shape of a bowstring, supporting the arch of your foot and absorbing shock when you walk.” In other words, normal movement puts it under fairly constant stress. Under too much stress, however, it can develop small tears. More stress can then inflame the tears. Inflammation and resulting scar tissue cause the pain. Your doctor cannot always pinpoint what it is you’re doing to create or aggravate the condition. But there are six primary risk factors:
- Age. It generally happens to those aged 40 to 60.
- Activity. Some kinds of exercise (e.g., long distance running, ballet dancing) seem to contribute to it.
- Foot Shape. Having either a high arch or very low arch can contribute. That’s why orthotics can sometimes help.
- Tight Calf Muscles. Your calf muscles naturally stress the plantar fascia.
- Occupation. If your work keeps you on your feet for long periods, you may be at risk.
- Obesity. Carrying around extra weight can stress the arches of your feet and lead to plantar fasciitis.
If you develop plantar fasciitis, the first thing you should do is look to those risk factors. Unfortunately, they aren’t the kinds of you can readily change. If you’re a ballet dancer, for example, how do you give that up? You will probably need to look at remedies.
Remedies for Plantar Fasciitis
Forty percent of the respondents to a survey who had plantar fasciitis took pain medications. But that just masks the condition without treating it. The Mayo Clinic says that most cases of plantar fasciitis go away within a few months if you just rest your feet, ice the sore area, and perform regular stretches. You can find a half dozen well illustrated stretches at this Washington University Orthopedics page. Physical therapy, night splints, and orthotics can also help. The Mayo Clinic even describes some surgical procedures, one of which they invented.
What the Mayo Clinic does not describe, however, is massage for plantar fasciitis. I think this is a major omission, because there are massage techniques that can break up scar tissue and adhesions. There is even an online course sponsored by the American Massage Therapy Association on plantar fasciitis and the benefits of massage.
Massage for Plantar Fasciitis
In September 2018, Massage Magazine published an article addressed to massage therapists on treating plantar fasciitis. The article cited research studies that found significant effectiveness in deep massage treatments combined with self-stretching exercises. It’s safe to say that licensed massage therapists are well-informed about the condition and trained to treat it.
If you do a web search for “massage for plantar fasciitis,” you’ll find a number of articles and videos on it, including many on how to do it yourself. But unless you are very well versed in the mechanics and physiology of feet, my advice is to get a professional massage first, then do the stretches on your own. Our massage service at Peak Recovery & Health Center has re-opened, and one of our massage therapists would be pleased to relieve your heel pain and prescribe stretches for you to do at home. Book a session today.
Photo: “Happy Feet” by JUST NIC is licensed under CC BY 2.0