Top 5 Ways to Relieve Plantar Fasciitis
Anyone who has experienced the debilitating pain of plantar fasciitis will tell you how awful the condition can be. Those suffering from it are typically unable to perform a number of physical activities, and often even have difficulty walking. Fortunately, several natural methods exist to safely treat the condition.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia, a ligament which runs on the underside of the foot, particularly in the heel. Generally speaking, it is caused by overuse of the ligament, and is commonly exacerbated by physical activity, weight gain and aging. Rebecca Simonds, a Doctor of Physical Therapy Candidate at Emory University, noted that flare ups can also occur as a result of calf tightness or ill-fitting shoes.
It is a fairly common condition, occurring in some two million Americans each year, and can usually be effectively treated with the proper techniques. However, if left untreated, plantar fasciitis can evolve into plantar fasciosis, a more serious, degenerative condition.
The pain resulting from the condition can be treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), but this method generally only provides short-term relief, and does not typically heal the condition. With that in mind, consider attempting some, or all, of the following five methods as a superior way to stop a painful case of plantar fasciitis.
Stretches designed to release tension in the heel and foot may help to keep the plantar fascia loose and unstrained. The three most common stretches are to bend your toes upward with your hand, bend your toes downward, and stretch out the back of each heel by pressing against a wall with one foot out behind you. Simonds also recommends stretching your calves off the edge of a step, or by gently pulling your big tow back towards your shin. Typically these stretches are performed one or two times, held for about 30 seconds each, and performed two or three times per day. Use caution in performing stretches, and release the stretch if it results in serious pain.
2. Cold Therapy
Applying ice packs to the affected area can help to reduce inflammation and swelling, and ultimately lead to reduced pain. One effective way to do this, Simonds suggests, is by freezing a bottle of water, putting it on the floor and “self massaging” the bottom of your foot for a few minutes.
Different professionals suggesting varying methods of ice treatment (and sometimes recommend mixing it with heat treatment), but in general, performing a structured ice-on, ice-off regimen over a series of days will be the most effective treatment.
3. Braces, Inserts, and Splints
Varieties of useful contraptions are available to help eliminate the strain on the plantar fascia, and should be considered for relief. Braces designed to tightly wrap around the ankle, heel, and foot can help to relieve the strain on the ligament. Likewise, shoe inserts can be used to provide additional padding and support for the heel. Splints (which are designed to be worn at night) act to stretch the ligament, and keep it from becoming tense. These types of products are widely available, and can be ordered online or purchased in stores.
4. Lose Weight
This option may be easier said than done, but reducing your weight can lessen the pain of plantar fasciitis. As the condition affects the foot and heel, greater amounts of weight to support result in greater demand and strain. Simply put, the less weight, the better. If this method of treatment applies in your situation, consider it additional motivation to improve your health, and an opportunity to improve two conditions with one approach.
5. Rest and Rub
Rest may be the most difficult treatment of all for someone with a busy schedule or an athletic event on the horizon, but in some cases it may be the only treatment that works. One smart approach is to pinpoint a particular activity that triggers the pain, and avoid it for an appropriate period of time. However, in more severe cases, general rest may be necessary, including limiting your amount of walking. Rest in combination with the aforementioned methods, may be a particularly effective mix.
And while you’re getting your due rest, Simonds recommends massaging the foot and the calf using a foam roller, to help relieve any muscle tension that might prolong the pain.
Most people will be able to alleviate the pain of plantar fasciitis by following some combination of the methods already described. In particularly severe cases, less natural methods may be considered, such as cortisone injections, surgery, and even extracorporeal shockwave therapy. However, all of these methods have dangerous potential side effects, and should only be considered in rare circumstances after all other methods have been thoroughly exhausted.
Prior to panicking or performing any drastic measures, be sure to try combining some or all of these five methods to eliminate plantar fasciitis. First and foremost, remember that rest may be your best option, and despite the frustration of down time and temporarily giving up some activities you enjoy, it may be the best long-term solution.
Derek is a technical writer and editor with 10 years of experience in the health care field, having first earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Delaware. He is a contributing author on a number of textbooks in the medical field, ran a nuclear cardiology licensing course, and has written a variety of other pieces from online training courses to medical software manuals. Derek pursues his personal interest in health and wellness by playing multiple sports and running marathons. An insatiable traveler, he spent 16 months working and living abroad while traveling through South America, Europe, and Southeast Asia.
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