Understanding Plantar Fasciitis How Stretching and Massage Treatment Can Help

Written by Kevin McVay


Our team of professional massage therapists are here to help - we understand the treatment and the condition.

Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition that does not discriminate. Athletes, for example, may experience plantar fasciitis when they train past their pain threshold or are not careful about self-care. Even the average person can ignore a nagging discomfort that usually signals injury is inevitable if they do not slow down and pay attention. 

The “itis” suffix in fasciitis means “inflammation,” but the tissue is rarely inflamed the way we usually understand inflammation. 

 In 2003, Lemont looked at 50 cases and found so little inflammation that they declared that plantar fasciitis “is a degenerative fasciosis without inflammation, not a fasciitis.” It would be better to use a more generic suffix like “-opathy” (diseased) or “-osis” (condition). 

 The degeneration is “like the chronic necrosis of tendinosis,” which is Latin for “tissue death.”  

In plantar fasciitis, the plantar fascia is not just hurting, it is dying. It is dying, eroding like a rotten plank.

Massage therapists have a unique skill set that makes them a good partner in dealing with both the pain and causes of plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a thick connective tissue that supports the arch on the bottom of the foot and runs from heel bone forward to the bone between each toe and the bones of the mid-foot.

For many, plantar fasciitis presents as pain in the medial side of the heel.  Most noticeable with initial steps after a period of inactivity that usually lessens with increasing level of activity during the day. Complete resolution of symptoms varies but can take up to a year or more to resolve without treatment.

Plantar Fasciitis Statistics

 

  • It is estimated that 1 in 10 people will suffer from plantar fasciitis in their lifetime. 
  • Plantar fasciitis has been reported to account for about 10 percent of injuries that occur in connection with running.
  • The annual cost of treatments for plantar fasciitis is estimated to be between $192 and $376 million dollars. 
  • Obesity is a factor in 70 percent of plantar fasciitis cases. 
  • In one study, heel pain was either eliminated or much improved at eight weeks in 52 percent of patients who were treated with an exercise program to stretch the plantar fascia. 
  • Several studies have shown that use of night splints results in improvement for 80 percent of patients. Additional studies find that night splints are especially helpful for individuals whose symptoms have been present for more than 12 months.

 

Plantar Fasciitis - Common Non Surgical Treatments

Clients may try various non-surgical interventions to help mitigate the pain of plantar fasciitis. In many instances, two or more of these are used at the same time:

 

  • Contrasting hot and cold
  • Massage
  • Ibuprofen
  • Night splints
  • Rest
  • Shoes with good arch support or orthotics
  • Strengthening
  • Stretching calf and toe extensors, foot circles                                              
When diagnosed with plantar fasciitis you may be suggested to receive cortisone injections, physical therapy, or arch supports. These interventions are often helpful, though some people will continue to experience pain. Regular Massage with Myofascial release and Fascial Stretch Therapy on the foot may allow these clients to begin experiencing fewer symptoms of plantar fasciitis and get rid of the symptoms and pain much faster. 

 

The fascial system is like concentric layers of an onion. When there are multiple restrictions, massage therapists need to be patient, take their time, and move through each restriction. Myofascial release with small amount of pressure for a sustained period will help and when done correctly, the body will slowly start to relax and release. Fascial Stretch Therapy improves flexibility by creating an increased range of motion around each joint.   

In the body, there’s a beautiful balance of stability and mobility, and if you can find that perfect balance where the joints are completely stable throughout the ranges of motion, you build a body that’s least susceptible to injury. 

Self-Care You Can Practice at Home

 To test to see if the plantar area for you is weak, try this test with a partner:

 

  • Have the client sit in a chair with their hips, knees and ankles positioned at 90-degree angles. 
  • Place a standard business card beneath their second through fifth toes and instruct them to try and stop you from pulling the card away by pushing down to the floor with the tips of their toes.  
  • If the muscle is strong, you will have difficulty pulling the card out                                
A nice way to exercise this muscle if it is weak is to push the four smaller toes into the floor or a rolled-up face cloth.

 

Stretching calf, toe extensors and ball rolling.

 If it is true that many clinician’s say that the Achilles tendon has a continuing connection to the plantar fascia, it would be prudent to stretch the calf (or foam roll). A good many sufferers report improvement from this alone.

Ball Rolling (lacrosse ball, golf ball, racquetball, baseball, etc.…) Grab any type of firm ball and while in seated or standing position, apply firm and sustained pressure to arch of foot.  Hold for 30-60 seconds.  Then proceed to make circular motions in both directions and moving the ball up and down and across the entire foot. Do this in the morning and at night every day.

Toe extensors stretch. Raise the upper body with the toes touching the floor, in the cobra pose. If possible, bend the knees and sit back on your heels (if your feet cramp at this point, place a small rolled up towel under your ankles while the toes are touching the floor).

Calf stretch. With hands against the wall, extend one hip and leg backward to stretch with the foot firmly planted on the floor. Another great calf stretch would be on a set of stairs, holding onto the railing while dropping the heels and only having your toes to contact the step.

Tri-Covery Professionals 

Our team is dedicated to identifying each client's unique challenges and developing a treatment plan. Our team of highly credentialed therapists are well versed in not only Plantar Fasciitis but other pain based massage treatments.  Please contact our office today, or visit our online scheduling tool to start your personal treatment. 

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