5 Tips to Relieve Heel Pain/Plantar Fasciitis
Have you ever experienced sharp, shooting pain in your foot, especially upon taking your first steps in the morning?
The pain may be described as a bad bruise or burning ache along the arch of the foot or at the bottom of the heel. The pain generally goes away with rest, but returns each morning when your foot hits the ground. Some people describe the pain as “Planted Fascists” or angry politicians drilling/banging sharp tools into your foot. This is clearly not what is happening but certainly an apt description of this pathology’s pain!
The heel pain or foot pain you are experiencing is most likely plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis affects more than 2 million people a year and occurs when the thick fibrous band of tissue that supports the arch of your foot becomes irritated and inflamed.
This may be due to flat feet or rigid feet with high arches, poor footwear, weak core and hip strength, and or limited ankle mobility. The pain can be debilitating, affecting your day to day activities, and preventing you from being able to participate in your daily runs. It can also impact your life before, during or post-pregnancy, as well as at any stage of your life.
If you struggle with this very frustrating, often chronic, foot ailment – here are 5 tips to calm down the ‘Foot Fascists’ and start your journey toward recovery from heel pain:
- Stretch your calf muscles— All 3 (medial and lateral head of the gastrocnemius and the soleus) calf muscles contribute to tightness in the posterior lower leg, which then pulls on the Achilles tendon which then yanks on the plantar fascia; loose calf = happy foot! These stretches also involve other areas of the body like the hands and low back. Since this is true, always remember: the best lower back pain relief comes from listening to your body and not overdoing it.
- Roll your foot on a ball— the most effective tend to be a frozen golf ball, but anything small and hard to get into the firmest parts of the plantar and relieve knots; if it hurts you’re probably in the right spots! This is also great for arthritis pain relief in both the hands and feet.
- Think about how you sleep: is your foot pointed? If so, try to avoid this! It leads back to tip #1. There are socks that help you avoid doing so, some that provide compression to the medial foot/assist in correct ankle position and others that actually hook/strap so your foot remains more neutral as you sleep.
- Burn all your thong sandals and never walk barefoot. No, just kidding, sort of. Make sure your footwear has a good supportive arch and that your foot is secure in the shoe. Sandals that only go around your toes and slap when you walk are the worst for plantar problems. This is followed by very flat shoes, and of course (sadly) high heels. Make sure to purchase a supportive, sneaker or purchase an arch support to put inside your shoes. Place a pair of sneakers by your bed and use them first thing in the morning.
- Seek physical therapy! This is a necessity to make sure your pain goes away and stays away long term. Options exist from soft tissue massage on the bottom of your feet and legs, to hip stability and ankle mobility and aquatic therapy. PT can assist in changes throughout the kinetic chain to make foot strike and functional mechanics more agreeable for all parts of your body. This includes the bottom of your feet. Pain in your heel/arch is the symptom, you need to find the cause of that pain. A physical therapist can evaluate your personal strengths and weaknesses. They will let you know what areas/deficits are the cause of your plantar fasciitis.
Another option for foot and heel pain relief? Aquatic therapy.
Not only a useful form of physical therapy for plantar fasciitis, aquatic therapy or “water therapy” exercises are a useful tool. These can be adapted for pain and injuries of all types – and that impact all areas of the body. Low back pain, heel pain, hand pain and arthritis – there are even pool exercises for neck pain.
A physical therapist will provide an exercise routine specific to your body to get your foot feeling better faster. In addition, they will also help with other health conditions, too. Pain relief in one area of the body often depends on other areas feeling great, too.
You no longer need to wait to schedule a physical therapy appointment. With direct access, you can schedule a physical therapy appointment today without a prescription. It is best to schedule physical therapy as soon as you start feeling pain. This means that instead of waiting until the pain affects your daily life, it may not get to that point. Be proactive and get yourself feeling BETTER, faster. Though this blog is focused on the feet and ankles, the same is true for hand pain, arthritis, neck pain, low back pain and general discomfort.