Plantar Fasciitis is clearly known by that burning, tearing, hot, painful feeling on the bottom of the foot, typically starting on the heel and sometimes travelling into the arches of the feet. The pain is at its worst in the morning getting out of bed to stand as well as after a long day at work. It is the culmination of microtears in a type of tissue known as the Plantar Fascia. Plantar, referring to the foot, and fascia, a type of connective tissue in the body that acts very much like an elastic band. It is incredibly important; it gives support to the arch of the foot while we stand, while also acting like an elastic band to help propel our body forward whether we are walking or running. (Think back to grade school when you flung elastic bands at your friends…how far could you make it fling across the room?)
So, a culmination of microtears in the Plantar Fascia. When microtears occur in the body, we typically see this response: inflammation. Inflammation is your body’s first defense for sprains, colds, bruising, cuts, tears…etc. It is the first stage in the healing process after sustaining an injury. Hence why we call this particular issue Plantar Fasciitis; “itis”, in anatomy language, loosely translates to inflammation and pain.
How can Plantar Fasciitis happen?
Most often it is the culmination of a couple of factors. And time. Here are just a few of the most common reasons that someone may start to experience Plantar Fasciitis:
- Long-distance running
- Working long hours standing/walking on hard floors
- High intensity exercise after a sedentary period
- Excessive weight
- Poor shoe choices
- Leg length discrepancy
- Biomechanical issue when moving
The most common theme shared between all of the above is that they all demand one thing: time. What I mean by this is that overtime we can stress the foot and the Plantar Fascia. The arch of the foot and fascia are stressed when standing for long periods of time, which usually happen in service industry jobs on concrete floors; 8 hours a day, 5-7 days week. The same is true in movement based activities like long walks, running, hiking and dancing; you’re loading your weight into each foot at any moment in any activity. Now add carrying excess weight on your frame in any of those scenarios, perhaps some bad shoe choices and we’ve got the recipe for a repetitive strain injury: Plantar Fasciitis.
How can a Massage Therapist RMT help with Plantar Fasciitis?
If you went to your doctor, you may have been given pain medication, some time off of work, perhaps suggestions for a healthier lifestyle and shoe choice, and/or a referral to one of the following physical therapists: Registered Massage Therapist (RMT), Physiotherapist, Osteopath or Chiropractor. Seeking out a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT), Physiotherapist, Osteopath or Chiropractor can certainly help. RMT massage therapists are trained to look for the original cause of the problem and help you literally move forward from the pain.
An RMT massage therapists may examine some of the following:
- Leg length discrepancies
- Tightness in the calf muscles
- Weakness of muscles within the foot and those supporting the arch
- Weakness/tightness in muscles surrounding the knee hips and low back
- Inappropriate biomechanics with walking/running
- Exercise frequency and environment
- Footwear choices
- Excess weight
- Exercise environment
A treatment by an RMT massage therapist might include work specifically to the foot and calf; however it can, and most likely will, involve the muscles of the hips and low back. To quickly explain, if the muscles of the hips and low back are tight/weak or both, they can interfere with how the body moves with ease and overload the plantar fascia, eventually contributing or starting Plantar Fasciitis.
You will most definitely be given homework in the form of stretches, strengthening exercises and cold/heat/rest applications to address the involved muscles and alleviate pain in the bottom of the foot. As well, expect suggestions for footwear from purchasing a proper pair of runners all the way to considering orthotics.
Beeson P (September 2014). “Plantar fasciopathy: revisiting the risk factors”. Foot and Ankle Surgery. 20 (3): 160–5.
Goff JD, Crawford R (September 2011). “Diagnosis and treatment of plantar fasciitis”. Am Fam Physician. 84 (6): 676–82.