Have you ever gotten out of bed in the morning, taken three steps across the floor and suddenly felt like someone had smashed your heel with a hammer while you were sleeping? You might have plantar fasciitis, something that, as a podiatrist, I see a lot of in my Westchester Health practice.
What causes plantar fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is caused by inflammation of the thick tissue, or fascia, that run along the bottom of your foot connecting your heel bone to your toes. It tends to affect long distance runners with tight hamstrings, calves and Achilles tendons; people with low arches; people who are on their feet all day; athletes who participate in strenuous high impact sports; and people who are overweight. It can also be caused by a muscular imbalance in the hips or pelvis which places more stress on one leg than the other.
5 things you can do to relieve the pain of plantar fasciitis
Here are some easy, do-it-yourself home treatments that can relieve the pain and inflammation of plantar fasciitis and hopefully even cure it.
Stretch the fascia
Stretching your lower legs, feet and ankles several times a day can help minimize the pain. Before your feet hit the ground in the morning, actively flex your ankles a couple of times to stretch the calf muscles, and extend your toes. Pull your toes up with your hand until you feel a stretch along the ball of your foot and hold this position for 30 seconds. (You may feel the stretch anywhere from the ball of your foot to your heel.) Throughout the day, continue stretching and strengthening your calf muscles and other leg muscles throughout the day.
Roll a frozen water bottle under the arch
Applying ice helps control inflammation. Freeze a water bottle and roll it under your foot for 10 minutes at the end of each day, paying particular attention to your arch.
Wear a night splint
To prevent the soft tissue in your foot from tightening during the night, a night splint is very effective. Looking somewhat like a shoe boot but not as solid, a night splint keeps the angle of your foot and lower leg at 85-90 degrees, the optimal level of stretch for relieving plantar fasciitis. Wearing a splint to bed might be awkward but if you wear it faithfully for a period of time, your foot will soon feel a lot better and your plantar fasciitis may go away altogether.
Tennis ball massage
Tight shoulders can cause plantar fasciitis if your arm swing throws off your proper hip alignment and the way your feet strike the ground. Rolling a tennis ball under and around these muscles can help keep them loose. Place the ball on the floor and gently roll it under your foot for a few minutes to loosen up your plantar fascia. Then lying on the ball, move it up your legs, back and shoulders, all the way up to your neck. Put enough pressure on the ball to get a deep massage. You may feel some soreness but discontinue if you feel overwhelming pain.
Support your arch
Once the bottoms of your feet have become sore and painful from plantar fasciitis, you need to offer them protection and relief. The best shoes for this are hiking boots. The stiff sole protects the foot while it heals, the rocker-bottom shape of the boot sole relieves stress on the foot, and the leather uppers give the entire ankle and foot more stability. If you’re not the hiking boot type, get an insole (from a podiatrist, not over-the-counter) with an arch bump to push on the plantar and keep it from flexing. Wear this support in all of your shoes, if possible.
Freedom from pain
By following these home remedy treatments, your first few steps in the morning should become less painful. After a few weeks of icing, massaging, stretching and resting, your plantar fasciitis will hopefully be cured. Let me know how these worked for you and I hope these tips lead to pain-free walking and running.
If you’re experiencing plantar fasciitis pain
If you think (or know) that you have plantar fasciitis, please call (914) 232-1919 to make an appointment with me at one of my Westchester Health offices. I’ll examine your heels, ankles and feet, evaluate your condition, and together with you, determine the best course of treatment to alleviate and hopefully, eliminate your pain. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.