How to Get Moving Again When You Have Plantar Fasciitis
By Jake Boly
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Plantar fasciitis can be terribly painful and debilitating at times, especially when not given the proper attention it needs to improve. If you’ve ever had plantar fasciitis, then you know the exact tender and painful feeling that comes along with this frustrating orthopedic complaint when walking, working out and going about daily life.
One of the toughest parts about working around plantar fasciitis is that it can sometimes have its own timeline in regard to feeling better. For example, there isn’t one definitive answer for eradicating this issue, especially when it feels severe and never-ending. However, there are multiple ways to limit the severity of plantar fasciitis and potentially cut down on the amount of time it will impact your body.
In this article, we’re going to cover what plantar fasciitis is, along with a few exercises, supportive equipment and supplements that could help with this issue.
Before diving into how to treat plantar fasciitis, let’s first discuss what it is and what causes it.
Plantar means the sole of the foot, and fascia is the thin connective tissue that covers the entire body. Plantar fasciitis is often described as a painful feeling around the heel and arch of the foot that is usually most prevalent in the morning, and the exact area of tenderness and pain, as well as its severity, varies from individual to individual.
Plantar fasciitis can have a large range of pain when it comes to how it is felt and interpreted, which makes it difficult to accurately assess for every single person. This pain is caused by the thick plantar fascia that covers the bottom of the foot from the heel to the toe becoming irritated and inflamed. Generally speaking, plantar fasciitis is the result of a misuse or overuse issue, which can actually stem from other areas of the body rather than the foot itself.
The plantar fascia is designed to provide the foot with support and is reactive in nature, so when it’s “stressed” or strained, it can be prone to causing problems like pain and irritation.
In traditional research settings, fascia was thought to be simple in nature, without neurons and other proprioceptive biological functions. The way we understand fascia is continuing to evolve, however. In a 2012 review, researchers assessed multiple studies that look at and classify fascia and concluded that this thin connective tissue has more functions than often given credit for.
Two of fascia’s bigger functions, and two that are relevant for plantar fasciitis, include stability and proprioceptive activity. Proprioception is our ability to move through space and time with body awareness and control. When you consider what fascia does in the body as a whole, then it can be easier to understand why plantar fasciitis causes the issues it does. The thick layer of plantar fascia on the feet is designed to support the arch of the foot, so when this normal function is not being upheld or catered to, then the foot’s fascia can react and become painful.
On top of fascia not receiving the amount of attention it deserves for being an intricate connective tissue, plantar fasciitis is also often misunderstood. Plantar fasciitis is often written off as simple acute periods of inflammation, however, research is beginning to show that there could also be levels of degeneration happening around the plantar fascia.
This doesn’t necessarily change how plantar fasciitis is cared for, but it does offer food for thought when it comes to preventing future periods of pain and how to think about this orthopedic issue.
For example, degeneration of connective tissue can be caused by multiple factors and if the plantar fascia is being misused, then these connective fibers could be more prone to issues that extend further than acute flare-ups of pain. That’s why it’s important to focus on preventing long-term issues when treating this condition.
One of the good, yet sometimes frustrating, variables that come along with plantar fasciitis is that there are multiple ways to treat this issue, but they take consistent work. Simply taking an anti-inflammatory may work in the interim for pain, however, it’s not sustainable when misuse and overuse are constant issues.
The truth of the matter is that plantar fasciitis can only really be worked around when multiple proactive steps are taken on a continual and daily basis. Below, we’ll lay out four ways you can be proactive with plantar fasciitis.
One of the first and easiest ways to limit plantar fasciitis discomfort is by stretching the calf and sole of the foot. This can provide relief to potentially decreasing some of the tension that’s currently causing the plantar fascia to be reactive in an adverse way.
How to do a Seated Calf Stretch
An easy stretch everyone can perform is the seated calf stretch. Take a seat and extend the affected leg out and bring the other into a <90 degree angle. Grab an exercise band or towel, and place it around the ball of the extended foot. Pull the foot towards you, gradually increasing the stretch and breathe deeply while doing so.
Perform this stretch when waking up, mid-day, and before bed. It can also be used as a proactive step when the feeling of plantar fasciitis begins to resonate.
Once you’ve stretched out the irritated fascia, self-massage can be a next step and powerful tool. Fascia, when reactive, can benefit greatly from a light massage, and it’s relatively easy to do.
How to Self-Massage
Sit in a similar position as you were for the stretch, however, the bent foot will be the foot experiencing plantar fasciitis. Lightly dig your thumbs into the arch of the foot and the area where the heel meets the arch.
It can be useful to use a foot moisturizing cream when going about this process because it will allow the thumbs to move seamlessly, and while you’re massing the feet, why not moisturize them, too? It’s easy to do and it kills two birds with one stone.
There isn’t really one supplement that will have an immediate direct impact on plantar fasciitis, however, there are supplements that can help with long-term pain and irritation. One of the supplements that can be used, which might have some benefit for plantar fasciitis is a high-quality omega 3.
Omega-3s have been suggested to potentially decrease inflammation in the body, which could have carryover for limiting plantar fasciitis severity when taken with other proactive steps. When taking an omega-3, aim to consume between 250-500mg of DHA and EPA combined.
Another supplement that could indirectly positively impact plantar fasciitis is curcumin, which is a highly bioavailable compound that is found in supplements like turmeric. In the body, curcurmin has multiple antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects. This makes it a great option for supplementation on a daily basis when decreasing general inflammation is a constant goal.
Plantar fasciitis can be terribly frustrating at times, but it’s something that can be managed with thoughtful and proactive steps. One of the best steps a person can take to limit plantar fasciitis is to be objective with movement, day-to-day habits, and caring for the issue at hand.
If there is an overuse or misuse issue with plantar fasciitis, then more than likely there are other issues going on within the body, and assessing areas like the knees and hips and how they’re moving can be a great proactive step forward.