Is Plantar Fasciitis stopping you from leading the life you want?
If so, you’re not alone. It’s most common in women in their 40’s and 60’s. Women are more often affected by it than men. That said, you don’t have to continue to suffer, there’s a lot you can do to prevent and heal plantar fasciitis.
How Your Feet Have Changed…
The 26 bones in each of your feet and, all of their related joints, are designed to absorb the shocks of walking. Generally they do their job very well, provided they all stay in proper alignment.
You most likely began life with two beautifully aligned feet, though you may have had naturally high, low or “normal” arches. And then, through the years…
You spent several hours a day in high heels or flats (probably ones without good heel and arch support), depending on what the fashion of the day was.
You walked and stood on concrete sidewalks and hard, unforgiving floor surfaces at home, work and elsewhere. You may have spent hours on your feet at work.
Perhaps you placed excessive stress on your feet by walking, running or doing other forms of exercise for long periods of time and skimped on stretching.
Maybe you developed arthritis in your feet, became diabetic or put on a few pounds, all of which made your feet‘s job more difficult.
Whatever the case, your feet have changed.
What Plantar Fasciitis Is…
Plantar fasciitis, sometimes misspelled plantar fascitis, is a common reaction to those changes. Plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia ligament, which runs along the sole of your foot from your heel bone to your toes, thickens and/or develops tears, becoming inflamed and painful.
It’s symptoms… burning, stabbing or aching in the heels and soles of your feet, can range from mild discomfort to debilitating pain.
At first, you may only experience pain when your feet touch the ground in the morning, causing you to hobble. Then as you walk, the pain seems to ease. If you sit or stand for a long period of time, when you start to walk again, the cycle of pain repeats.
Because the pain eases after a few steps (at least in the early stages), you may think you need to push walking and become more active in order to get rid of the pain. Pushing through the pain or simply living with it, isn’t the best thing to do.
Your Steps Back To Health…
If you’re experiencing pain in one or both of your feet, your first step is to have an evaluation by a health professional experienced in working with foot problems. Plantar fasciitis, though the most common cause of foot pain, isn’t the only cause. Heel spurs, Achilles tendonitis, fractures and neuromas are just a few of the other causes of foot pain. The sooner you’re correctly diagnosed and begin treatment, the sooner you will get relief.
For most people suffering from plantar fasciitis, conservative treatment is all that’s required to get them back to pain-free walking.Surgery and other invasive procedures are usually not needed.
So, you’ve diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, what’s next?
- Since your tendon is inflamed, stop or reduce any activities that cause you pain.
- Take some of the pressure of your foot. This can be done by taping your foot (your health care professional can teach you how to do this yourself), wearing a heel cushion or orthotic device in your shoes and/or icing your foot. Over the counter anti-inflammatory medication may be helpful as well.
- Avoid standing and walking on hard surfaces as much as possible.
- Once your pain has subsided a little, stretching the plantar fascia and calf muscles becomes very important. Tight calf muscles can have a significant effect on your foot alignment. The tighter your calf muscle, the more your foot will pronate (the arch rolls inward). When your foot stays in an excessively pronated position, the plantar fascia ligament gets over stretched weakening the structure of your foot, which places even more stress on your plantar fascia and may cause a heel spur to form. Ask your health care professional to teach you specific stretches for both your plantar fascia and your calf muscles.
- Strengthen the muscles of your feet and ankles. They help your foot function properly when you’re walking and standing. Your health care professional can give you strengthening exercises you can do at home.
With conservative measures, you should notice a decrease in your symptoms within a couple of weeks, but it can take 6 months to a year for your pain to totally disappear. Stick with it and be consistent.
To stay active while you heal, choose non weight bearing forms of exercise that don’t stress your foot or increase pain. When you are able to resume weight bearing forms of exercise, do so gradually and be diligent about stretching before and after.
Preventing A Reoccurrence…
When your pain totally subsides…
- Don’t stop stretching! Stretching before any type of physical activity prepares your foot to oppose the ground’s forces. Stretching afterward helps release any tension the activity created.
- Maintain a healthy weight. This reduces the tension on the plantar fascia.
- Wear shoes with a slighly raised heal. They should fit well, have a well cushioned sole and good arch support. Your body weight should be distributed evenly throughout your foot. Replace your shoes before they show sever signs of wear. This is especially true for shoes you exercise in.
- Avoid exercising on hard surfaces like concrete sidewalks.
- Develop good habits around exercise. If you begin a new exercise program or make changes to your current one, do so gradually. Make sure you have a well-rounded exercise program full of variety.
- Consider adding Yoga into your exercise program. In addition to helping to keep your body and feet flexible, Yoga focuses on proper body alignment and promotes good body awareness.