Plantar fasciitis is a constant, nagging pain for many people who suffer with it. But most cases of plantar fasciitis can be treated at home with a few easy remedies; avoiding numerous doctor’s office visits and potentially surgery. So what can you do to start treating your plantar fasciitis now?
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The answers are easier than you might think!
Before we can jump into the remedies for plantar fasciitis, it is important to understand what it is. Your plantar fascia is essentially tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot from your heel to your toes. It gives your foot its arch. This arch is important because your foot takes on a lot of pressure and force each time you walk, run, or even stand. The arch allows your feet to have shock absorption during these activities.
However, when your arch (plantar fascia) is being put under too much stress, tiny tears can form along it. These tears lead to a lot of pain and can cause inflammation in your foot which gives you even more pain! Because plantar fasciitis is caused from use, it is important that you don’t just try to tough it out and push through it. This will just cause you to injure it further. This is also why you can’t wait too long to start treatment- it will just continue to progress and get worse every day. The sooner you begin healing and treating your plantar fasciitis, though, the better your outcomes will be. There is hope!
Although this article advertises only 5 remedies for plantar fasciitis, you’ll actually be introduced to many more (who doesn’t like more?). This is because plantar fasciitis treatment is actually broken up into 5 goal categories with multiple remedies available under each. This means that you will have options and you can make choices that are best for your unique plantar fasciitis and your lifestyle.
So what are the goal categories? The first and most immediate goal is to relieve inflammation and pain. Once your pain is at a manageable and tolerable level, you can then focus on allowing the tears in your plantar fascia to heal. Once your plantar fasciitis is technically in remission, it’s time to assure that it won’t flare up again. This means that your third goal is to improve the strength of the muscles that support your plantar fascia and your fourth goal is to increase your plantar fascia’s flexibility. Finally, your last goal is to go back to doing the things that you love- the most important step of all.
#1: Eliminate the Inflammation and Pain
Before you can even consider other treatment options, you’ll want to take care of your most immediate symptoms. To reduce inflammation, you might want to consider taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pills. Many people with plantar fasciitis opt to take an anti-inflammatory in the morning, especially on days when they know they will be extra active (family vacations, etc.).
If you don’t like the idea of taking pills, anti-inflammatories come in ointment form. The main issue with ointment is that it may ruin some of your socks and it can rub off of your feet as you go throughout your day. One of the favorite options for many plantar fasciitis suffers is ice. You can put an ice pack (wrapped in a towel) on your feet for about 20 minutes and do this as often as you need throughout the day. The nice thing about ice is that it provides almost immediate relief; however, it isn’t always very practical. You may opt for one of these treatments or even a combination.
#2: Let Your Heel Heal
This is possibly the most difficult part of the regimen- letting yourself heal. Now that your pain is under control and you can breathe, it’s time to put your feet up. Your plantar fascia has hundreds of little microscopic tears that need to patch up before you can consider any proactive treatments. Just keep in mind that this will take more than a few hours. In fact, it can take days.
So what can you do in the meantime? Keep your feet up as much as possible throughout the day. When you do need to walk (try to do so minimally) make sure that you are wearing supportive shoes. This means athletic shoes that have less than 250 miles on them (any more than that and you should replace them with new ones). The arch support will minimize the forces on your plantar fasciitis.
#3: Get Buff
To keep your plantar fasciitis symptoms at bay, you’ll want to perform your exercises and stretches every day for the first year and then 2-3 times per week once you have it under control. To exercise the muscles around your plantar fasciitis, you’ll want to perform most if not all of these exercises.
First, warm up with calf raises. You’ll want to avoid putting pressure on your feet, so you’ll want to remain seated while you do this. Place books or a step stool on the floor in front of you. Place the balls of your feet on the stack of books or step stool. Make sure your heels are hanging off the side. Now use your calf muscles to lift your heels up. Repeat 12 times and then rest. Do 3 sets of 12.
Next, you’ll want to start focusing on your toes. To perform toe taps you’ll need to be barefoot. You’ll be seated with your feet flat on the floor. Then, focusing, you’ll lift one of your big toes. Keep it lifted and then tap it to the floor 12 times. Repeat on the other foot. Do this until both feet have completed 3 sets of 12.
Another exercise is to place small objects on the floor in front of you while you remain seated. You’ll pick up the small objects with the toes of your right foot first and place them back into a container. Repeat with the other foot. For this activity, you’ll want to try to have at least 10 items. You can also make this exercise harder or easier for yourself by using smaller or larger objects.
Finally, you can remain seated with a towel laid out underneath your feet. Using your toes, scrunch up the towel. Using your toes again, straighten out the towel. To scrunch and un-scrunch, you’ll want to plant your heel on the floor. You can replant your heel in a new position as needed, but the main objective is to use your toe muscles for this activity.
#4: Stretch It Out
Now that you’ve completed your strengthening exercises, it’s time to stretch. Start small and then work to bigger muscles. Stay seated and place a book on the floor in front of you. Place your toes on the book and hold this stretch for about a minute. Next, place the ball of your foot on the book and hold this stretch for a minute. Finally, stack ~3 books or get a step stool and place the ball of your foot on top to stretch your calf muscles. Hold this stretch for at least one minute.
If you enjoy these stretches, you may also opt to use a tennis ball along the length of your foot for an additional flexibility. To do this, place a tennis ball on the floor in front of you. Place your toes on top of it and allow your leg to relax. Hold the ball in the position until the count of three and then roll it to the ball of your foot. Once you’ve made it down your foot, you can more vigorously run the tennis ball up and down the length of your foot as tolerated.
Remember that stretching is essential for plantar fasciitis. The tighter your plantar fascia is, the easier it is to tear it. The more flexible and loose your plantar fascia is, the more use it can take before tearing. You can visualize this with a rubber band. Make a rubber band taut and then gently rub a knife across it. The knife represents standing, walking, and running. Think of how quickly it would snap. Now keep the rubber band loose. It will still eventually cut, but look how many slices (activity) it can take. This is why you can never skip your stretches!
If you don’t enjoy stretches, odds are that you enjoy massages. Although you cannot replace your stretches, you can reward yourself afterwards, making them seem a little less terrible. At home, you can do this by performing your own cross friction massage. You will do this by placing your thumbs on the sole of your foot above your heel. Move your thumbs back and forth width wise (from big toe side to pinky toe side and vice versa). Do this about five times and then move up your foot slightly and repeat until you reach your toes. You can perform this massage as often and for as long as you would like. If you don’t want to do this yourself, you can always opt to take a trip to a nearby spa who has a massage therapist that is familiar with plantar fasciitis.
#5: Get Going!
With plantar fasciitis, it is important that you remain active and keep a healthy weight. Being overweight puts excess pressure on your plantar fasciitis, so dropping a few pounds can really help you manage your condition. To do this, you might want to consider low-impact exercises such as swimming, rowing, biking, or yoga.
These activities don’t require excess work from your plantar fasciitis, but they still provide the health benefits of exercise. Now, if you acquired plantar fasciitis from long-distance running changing activities might be challenging for you. If you are one of many runners who would rather deal with the pain than give up your sport, you’ll want to read our upcoming article on Barefoot Treatments. It may just be able to help you out.
Plantar fasciitis can limit your ability to do what you love and ultimately impact your quality of life. Don’t let it get that far. Follow this simple guide to manage your symptoms and you’ll be on your way to better foot health and life health.
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1. Mayo Clinic Staff (2014). Plantar Fasciitis: Lifestyle and home remedies. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/plantar-fasciitis/basics/lifestyle-home-remedies/con-20025664
2. Plantar Fasciitis Institute. (2016). What you must know before you attempt to treat your plantar fasciitis pain. Retrieved from http://plantarfasciitisinstitute.org/exercises/
3. WebMD. (2014). Plantar Fasciitis Treatment Overview. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/plantar-fasciitis-treatment-overview
4. Young, C. C. (2015). Plantar Fasciitis Treatment and Management. Retrieved from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/86143-treatment
5. Young, C. C., Rutherford, D. S., & Niedfeldt, M. W. (2001). Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis. Retrieved from http://www.aafp.org/afp/2001/0201/p467.html