Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common injuries athletes face. Let’s hope you never experience this condition, but if you do, this guide will be your cheat sheet to getting well. Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the broad, thick, and fibrous band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot (called plantar fascia). This band of tissue runs from your heel all the way to the base of your toes. The plantar fascia normally acts as a shock absorber in the arch of your foot when walking, running, and jumping.
Inflammation or tearing may happen if the band is under increased strain or tension, which can cause pain and swelling. If inflammation and pain occur over a long period of time, this condition may become chronic, and heel spurs may occur that can be seen on an x-ray by your podiatrist.
The good news about plantar fasciitis—if there is anything good about plantar fasciitis—is that there are several great, conservative treatments and ways to manage it. The bad news is that the longer you wait to treat it, the worse it can get, and the longer it can take to heal.
If you can’t see a doctor right away, try these tips:
- Do not put any weight on the foot until the swelling or inflammation has gone away.
- Apply ice to the bottom of your foot and heel at least two to three times a day for 20 minutes at a time.
- If your health allows it, take a non steroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen to decrease pain and inflammation.
If you have no bruising or visible swelling, you may begin light stretching exercise of the arch and calf/Achilles tendon. You can also add an arch support or heel pad to your shoe wear.
Another treatment that has gained a lot of attention over the past few years is trigger point therapy and massage therapy for the plantar fascia. Most of us would not say no to a good foot massage!
An easy way to give yourself this treatment is by using a tennis ball or golf ball. Place a tennis ball on the ground and gently rolling it under foot for a few minutes can help loosen up your plantar fascia, making it much less likely to become irritated. In order to get a deeper massage place more pressure on the ball with your foot. Some soreness is completely normal, however if you have pain, decrease the pressure. If the tennis or golf ball is too painful for you, you can use a frozen soda can by also placing it on the floor and rolling slowly from heel to toe with mild to moderate pressure as tolerated. The ice helps to decrease inflammation and swelling while giving a nice massage.
Stretching the calf muscles is also very important to help heal the plantar fascia. The calf muscles lead into the Achilles tendon which attaches to your heel. Both the plantar fascia and Achilles tendons attach to your heel and work together, applying forces during activity.
To stretch these out, stand against a wall and slide one leg back, pushing the heel down towards the floor When you feel a stretch in the lower part of your leg, hold it for 15 seconds. After those 15 seconds are up, bend your knees until a deeper stretch is felt a bit lower in the leg Again, hold this stretch for 15 seconds. Repeat this until you have performed this exercise 3 times on both legs.