When you just can’t walk: Plantar Fasciitis
Dec 29, 2020
And now, a guest article by OS Clinician and friend, Dr. Kurt Brooks:
Oh, the benefits of walking… Let’s start with the “short” list:
- Burns calories and Lowers blood sugar
- Decreases risk of heart disease by strengthening your heart
- Boost immune function
- Eases joint pain
- Boosts energy and Improves your mood
- Improves circulation
- Strengthens your bones
- Improves sleep
- Lowers risk of Alzheimer’s disease
- Improves breathing
- Improves digestion and bowel motility
- And there’s so much more!
But what if you just can’t walk? Your foot/feet hurt with every step… You’ve Google’d it or actually seen a specialist and you have Plantar Fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain and pain in the arch of your foot. It starts as a sharp, stabbing pain in your heel or arch that may go away after a few minutes and then return after you’ve been on your feet a while.
The plantar fascia is a thick connective tissue in the shape of a bowstring that connects the heel to the front of the foot and holds up the arch. But in order to maintain that arch, it needs friends!
Those friends include the muscles in the foot, the calf, and even your gluteals (your butt!). If your hip, calf or foot muscles get weak, the plantar fascia must bear the stress of you walking or running by itself. It also needs the ankle and big toe to be the main hinges when you move. If the calf muscles (Achilles tendon) or the big toe get tight, then the plantar fascia and the arch in your foot has to take up more stress while you walk or run. (There are several other factors that can lead to plantar fasciitis, but these are the most common and most easily addressed.)
“I have flat feet.” Or “I have high arches.” So what? Both flattened arches and high arches are risk factors for plantar fasciitis and few of us have perfect feet. You are wonderfully and fearfully made! The human body is very adaptable to changes. From PainScience.com: When a non-traumatic injury occurs, “it almost always happens because more than one thing goes wrong”. Chronic pain and injuries are multifactorial, which means that solving your particular riddle will also be multifactorial.
So, what can you do about your foot pain?
The internet is full of ideas to help with plantar fasciitis. From ice to heat, thousand-dollar custom orthotics, foot massagers, and foot splints. TENS units (electro-therapy) to shock waves, creams/ rubs/ oils, and pastes. New socks. And new shoes. These can all help lessen the pain associated with plantar fasciitis (for a short period of time), but they do not address the cause!
So where do you start?
Start with Pressing Reset! Pressing Reset is simply performing a movement that improves or adds to the information going to your brain. When the nervous system receives information that it is looking for, it feels safe, and in turn, allows the body to move better and feel better.
- Breathe with your diaphragm! This helps decrease pain and helps to stabilize the spine and pelvis, helping to restore normal walking patterns and decrease stress on the plantar fascia.
- Move your eyes and head often! By engaging the vestibular system (through eye and head movements), you help balance and help restore normal muscular tone throughout the body, thus helping to restore normal walking patterns and decrease stress on the plantar fascia.
- Roll on the floor! Rolling from your back onto your stomach (and reverse) can help with spinal and hip mobility and stabilization. This can also help wake up those sleepy glutes (butt muscles) that you need when standing and walking to help support that plantar fascia.
- Rock back and forth (with your toes pointed and with your toes pulled up under your foot)! Rocking is a great way to improve hip, knee, ankle, and toe mobility, as well as core and upper body stability. Rocking can be modified to specifically help with plantar fasciitis:
- Straighten your back leg out and rock onto your toes to feel a great stretch in your calf muscles and Achilles tendon.
- Put one foot by your hands. Rock forward onto your front foot and continue until you rock forward onto your toes to help loosen up that great toe.
- Crawl (on your hands and toes if possible, but hands and knees if you must)! Crawling is a great cardio-vascular exercise (It’ll make you sweat!) that improves strength and flexibility. Crawling in circles (Axis crawling) is a great way to improve gluteal strength to help support the arch muscles too! Or try it with a sport band (Thera-band) around your ankles or knees for an extra boost!
If you find your foot pain is not responding, find a good physical therapist or health and fitness specialist to help solve your specific riddle. (Most primary care doctors, orthopedists, and even some chiropractors tend to go with passive treatments – NSAIDs, orthotics, splints, injections, etc., rather than looking for the cause and aiming treatment to alleviating what is causing the breakdown.)
Kurt is a physical therapist with almost 30 years of experience. Working with orthopaedic and sports medicine injuries, he continues to build on his love of learning - from completing a manual therapy fellowship, earning an advanced doctorate in Physical Therapy, to teaching at the Duke University School of Medicine/ Department of Physical Therapy. His love of movement has evolved from participating in all major sports during his childhood and playing college-level volleyball, to attaining his 2nd-degree black-belt in Tae Kwon Do and challenging himself with Spartan races in time for his 50th birthday. Kurt continues his love of anatomy and biomechanics, of life-long learning, of caring for others, and of movement by incorporating Original Strength concepts into his clinical practice and daily life.
Kurt's average client is 10 - 100 years old. Most have a fear of movement for one reason or another. Sprains and strains... aches and pains... to pre and post-op care. Sports conditioning and general fitness.