Many people live in northern Arizona for the outdoor lifestyle it provides. The outdoor lifestyle typically involves movement – hiking with the family dog through groves of oaks and pines, mountain biking, running or jogging on trails and streets, and snow sports. Needless to say, the feet can put in some work.
But a painful condition called plantar fasciitis, also known as “jogger’s heel,” can hamper those activities or even stop them all together. According to the sports medicine community, many therapies exist to help alleviate the pain of plantar fasciitis, and among them is massage.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
It is estimated that two million Americans suffer from plantar fasciitis. The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society defines plantar fasciitis as an overuse injury caused by repetitive over-stretching of the plantar fascia, which is the thick band of tissue and tendon that runs under the foot. A diagnosis of plantar fasciitis means inflammation in the tough, fibrous band of tissue (fascia) connecting the heel bone to the base of the toes. The condition is often confused with heel spurs, which is a build-up of calcium on the heel caused by repeated impact.
Plantar fasciitis leads to pain (from dull to severe) in the heel of the foot, especially upon awakening in the morning and taking those first steps after getting out of bed, or after sitting for a while, such as at a desk, then standing. After walking, the pain usually eases.
Information from the Mayo Clinic states that several factors can contribute to the onset of plantar fasciitis, including age; exercises and activities that place significant stress on the heel; being flat footed or having a high arch; obesity, which puts more strain on the fascia; wearing hard-soled shoes; and working at jobs that keep you on your feet for much of the day.
If left untreated, and if the condition becomes chronic, not only can it affect your activity level, plantar fasciitis can alter the way you walk and could lead to foot, knee, hip and even back problems.
Treating Plantar Fasciitis
A host of therapies and treatments exist to help turn the tide against the pain of plantar fasciitis. Reducing pain and inflammation is a top priority using ice, compression, rest and anti-inflammatory medications. Taping the foot can relieve the pain under the heel. Proper shoes are extremely important. Orthotics, steroid injections and surgery are more costly options for extreme cases.
Stretch. Stretch. Stretch. Exercises to stretch the plantar fascia and calf muscles are a priority. Calf muscle stretches should be done three to five times a day, holding the stretches for up to 30 seconds at a time. The plantar fascia stretch is done by pulling the foot and toes upwards aiming to feel a stretch in the arch of the foot and back of the calves. Rolling the foot over a ball can also help stretch underneath the foot.
Massage Therapy to Stretch, Relieve, Restore
Massage therapy not only deals with the symptoms but treats the root of the problem. Deep tissue massage works to loosen muscle tissue, remove toxins and increase circulation of blood and oxygen to the area. Deep tissue massage works because it physically breaks down the adhesions caused by overexertion or strain. A trained massage therapist can work the foot and heel so the ligaments and muscles start to relax, which promotes healing and diminishes chances of reoccurrence. As a result, pain decreases and there is increased ease when walking, standing and participating in daily activities.
Additionally, individuals dealing with the pain of plantar fasciitis frequently adapt the way they walk to try and avoid the pain. Doing so can cause issues with other parts of the body, such as the hips, feet, ankles, knees, low back and joints, which eventually causes strained muscles and sore joints.
Although lasting treatment takes time, most people report feeling partial to full relief from the pain of plantar fasciitis after a series of massage sessions.
Daily at-home massage can be done through the use a rubber ball or a circular object like a water bottle to roll across the bottom of the foot while sitting in a chair with enough pressure to be effective without causing too much pain. QCBN
By Mark Love
Mark Love is the Franchisee of Massage Envy Spa Flagstaff, located at 1235 S. Plaza Way in the University Plaza Shopping Center next to Safeway. For more information on the benefits of massage and to schedule an appointment with a massage therapist, visit MassageEnvy.com or call 928-526-ENVY (3689) and follow on Facebook at Facebook.com/MEFlag.