Plantar Fasciitis is an inflammation of a thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes which typically occurs from overuse in the athletic population. In anatomical terms, plantar refers to the bottom of the foot. When you step down on your foot, the tendon stretches therefore acting like a spring to keep your arch and to help take stress off the legs and rest of the body. It provides vital shock absorption in daily activities as well as in sports when the force of the ground is 2-3x as strong. Over time, repetitive micro trauma can create swelling in the fascia of the tendons. Symptoms include stabbing pain near the heel. Pain might be worst in the morning, as the tendon needs to stretch out from being allowed to shorten overnight when not used for weight bearing purposes. Treatments include massage, physical therapy, shoe inserts, steroid injections, and surgery.
It is important to treat because when the plantar fascia stiffens it can lead to shin splints and stress fractures. It can also cause bone spurs in the heel as the tendon is pulled away from the heel and body adapts by laying down more bone to close the gap. It is common in athletes, people over 40, those with high arches and people whose jobs require standing and walking for a long time, as well as high heels, and unsupported footwear.
How Massage Can Help Plantar Fasciitis
Combined with rest, stretches, and proper shoe fit, massage can help to reduce inflammation. Massage techniques applied to the foot, ankle and calves can help to clear out any swelling and waste products from the micro-traumas. It can also help to realign the fibers in the tendon and break up any adhesions in the tissue. Stretching, along with trigger point work in the calves and legs, can also be helpful as well as icing it. It is important that the therapist does the deep stripping stroke of the fascia in the direction of the heel to prevent any more damage if the tendon is causing a heel spur. Don’t worry, you’re in good hands here at Massage Hope!!
Some home care treatments are rubbing your feet with ice cups after activity or at the end of the day and stretching your feet out with a band or towel before getting out of bed in the morning. When I had plantar fasciitis during my collegiate soccer career I found both those things to be helpful if I was diligent about it. Simply freeze small paper cups half filled with water, then you can tear away the paper and massage. When stretching sit up with your legs straight out in front of you, wrap the towel around the balls of your feet and gentle pull your toes towards you.
The most common cause of plantar foot pain is plantar fasciitis; pain on the underside of the foot that is aggravated with activity is often diagnosed as such. In some cases, this pain does not respond to typical therapies for Plantar Fasciitis. When standard treatments are unsuccessful, the primary problem may not be with the plantar fascia at all.
A potential cause of plantar foot pain that can mimic symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis is compression of the inferior calcaneal nerve (ICN) under the arch of the foot. The ICN is a branch of the lateral plantar nerve on the bottom surface of the foot. This nerve is called BAXTER's nerve, named after the first physician to describe this nerve compression as a specific cause of foot pain. Compression pathology of this nerve is therefore called Baxter's Neuropathy. Your therapist can manipulate the foot by moving the foot into inversion, or by grasping the heel and hind foot and gently pulling it in a medial direction.
If you have foot pain or plantar fasciitis, come in for a session and tell your therapist. We’ll take it from there!
We can help forge a healthier you!
If you have questions about this post or massage therapy don’t hesitate to give us a call at 703-858-2323 or email Kirsten@massagehope.com and as always, thank you for reading!
Pathology A to Z: A Handbook for Massage Therapists, Premkumar, 3rd edition 2010
Orthopedic Assessment in Massage Therapy. Lowe, 2006
Karlee and Danita’s brains and experience as LMTs