Do the first few steps out of bed in the morning feel like you're walking on needles, hot coals, or something even worse? You may be dealing with a case of the ever popular plantar fasciitis.
There is a lot out there about plantar fasciitis and how you can manage it, but I want to get a little deeper. Hopefully by the end of this post you have a better understanding about 1.) What to do about it and 2.) Why the activities or stretches you're trying may not be fixing it.
So let's start with the most commonly found internet fixes to PF (I am not typing it out 300 times). **Disclaimer- there is nothing inherently wrong with these exercises, in fact we may use them in a physical therapy session, they just can't be the ONLY things you do**
#1 most common thing google tells you to do: ROLL ON A FROZEN WATER BOTTLE.
Why this is not the answer: Your plantar fascia is a REALLY strong band of tissue that literally holds you up. All day. Everyday. You stand on this little guy, all of you! It can hold 100% of your weight, and more. So I don't know what you weigh but if it can hold all of my weight 24/7, then rolling it on a water bottle for 1-2 minutes is not changing anything. IF IT DID WE WOULD BE IN TROUBLE!
Why it feels good: Manual input to painful tissues can absolutely reduce pain! and I am a firm believer in if it helps keep it up! There is tons of research to say this does change the amount of pain your brain is sensing, therefore it can make you feel better! Which is a good thing!! IT JUST CAN'T BE THE ONLY THING.
#2 most common thing google tells you to do for PF: Stretch your calf!
Why this is not the answer: Stretching your calf is great. It may even be beneficial for PF. However, let me propose a question to you, your foot is connected to what? Answer: your leg. Question: Where does your 'leg' end? Answer: NOT YOUR KNEE. In order to make lasting changes you need to address the whole chain, meaning the cause, or contributing factors may be your hips, glutes, or hamstrings. More to come on this later.
Why it feels good: Again, stretching your calf may feel great, and it may be 'tight' so this could very well provide some relief. IT JUST CAN'T BE THE ONLY THING.
Lets move on to somethings you should add to your PF routine!
Stretch the entire posterior chain: Sit with your feet up against a wall, and lean forward.
You be the judge, stop when you feel a moderate stretch. Try not to round your lower back and keep your knees straight. Note: I don't get all the way to my toes- not important! Also note my mismatched socks.
Why this is important: See section on stretching your calf!
2. Toe yoga! Start in standing or sitting with feet flat on the ground. Then lift your big toes off the ground without lifting the other toes, then switch. Try not to sway or shift all of your weight to accomplish this!
**** My feet are a direct representation of how long we've been in quarantine, Ya girl needs a pedi!****
Why this is important: Your feet have small muscles in them called 'intrinsic' muscles. They support your arch and many other aspects of your feet. When you have PF most of the time you have gotten better shoes, or insoles to cushion your feet. This is a great thing to do to decrease pain however it means those muscles work LESS, and we need them to work more! Without intrinsic muscle strength and endurance your PF might get worse, along with your balance and even more!
3. Short foot- Start sitting with your foot on the floor, try and 'lift' your arch upwards. Try to do this without scrunching your toes into the ground. This is not a big movement, you really should barely move. I haven't mastered it myself to be honest!
Why this is important: The intrinsic muscles in your foot that we mentioned above support your arch, and the arch of you foot plays a lot of important roles, it helps absorb shock, and together with your plantar fascia provides a rigid foot so that you can efficiently 'push off' while taking steps.
So here's the deal, all of the things on this list are usually appropriate for aiding in the improvement of PF. Just make sure you're focusing on the tissues that can adapt and change, so that you can have lasting relief! It is common to have reoccurring PF so let's work towards true change!
Thanks for reading and I hope you're feet are on their way to feeling 20 again!
- Kelley Hale PT, DPT
This is not a specific treatment plan, and you should consult a medical professional prior to starting any new routine for pain.
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