I recently had a client come in for their monthly appointment and per our usual exchange, I asked if there was anything specific she wanted to focus on. She mentioned 2 things, one of which being her feet. Foot massage, when done well, feels fantastic. So a client asking for this is nothing new, however for this particular client it was.
Once her treatment was finished, I asked her about her feet. She went on to tell me that she’s had foot pain for about 2 years and self-diagnosed plantar fasciitis. I was shocked! How had I been working with her for over a year now, and she’s never mentioned this?
If you don’t know what plantar fasciitis is, that’s a good thing. And if you do, you or someone you know has probably had first hand experience with the musculo-skeletal imbalance. I asked a few more questions and she shared that she has tried almost everything and no one has been able to help. But she never tried regular massage.
What is plantar fasciitis?
My goal with this post is to help you better understand what plantar fasciitis is and how massage can help. In order to do that, you need to know a little about the anatomy of the foot and lower leg. So let’s take a look….
The main thing I want to point out with this image, is how the achilles tendon and plantar fascia ligament are both connected to the calcaneus. Understanding this relationship is key to explaining how plantar fasciitis occurs.
Our second image, shows which muscles are connected to the achilles tendon. Your gastrocnemius and soleus are you major lower leg muscles. This is essentially the meat of your calves. When these muscles become tight, they begin pulling harder on the heel. This excessive pulling disrupts the balance between the achilles tendon and plantar fascia, and plantar fasciitis develops.
Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia. The pain often times begins in the heel and over time may worsen to affect the entire bottom of the foot. Typically, the symptoms are at their worst with the first few steps in the morning. If left untreated for an extended period of time, there is potential for bone spurs to develop on the heel, causing even more pain.
How does massage help?
When dealing with plantar fasciitis, massage is a great treatment option. Why? Because the root cause is an overly tight lower leg. By working with the soft tissue (muscle) and helping it to relax, plantar fasciitis may be significantly improved or eliminated altogether. It’s actually a really simple problem to address, but you have to understand where the pain is stemming from.
Too often, people suffer with daily pain and our goal at The Massage Space is to help with that. So here are our top tips if you, or someone you know is someone battling plantar fasciitis:
1. Stretch your calves!
There are lots of ways to do this, so pick whatever is easiest for you and start stretching! We recommend taking 3 minutes, 5 times a day to stop and stretch your calves. This website is a great resource for different stretches and general info on why keeping your calves healthy is so important: http://www.stretching-exercises-guide.com/calf-stretches.html
2. Roll your feet! (with a frozen water bottle)
Yes, we said roll your feet with a frozen water bottle. This actually helps in a couple of ways. Rolling the bottom of your foot improves flexibility of the plantar fascia. There are other exercises you can do to help with this and you can find those here, under “Treatment for Acute Pain”: https://www.active.com/running/articles/plantar-fasciitis-prevention-tips?page=2
Rolling with a frozen water bottle also helps control the inflammation. Combining the rolling with the ice is a great way to start managing the pain associated with plantar fasciitis.
3. Get a massage!
Massage is one of the best treatments for plantar fasciitis because it addresses the cause: tight lower legs. First off, ensure that you see a therapist who has been trained to treat this condition. If you mention you have plantar fasciitis and they don’t address your lower legs, find a new massage therapist.
The frequency and duration of the treatment will vary depending on the severity of the condition. A general recommendation would be once a week for 4-6 weeks, followed by monthly maintenance. The longer you’ve had it, the longer it will take to resolve, so don’t wait to schedule a massage!