Plantar Fasciitis – A Chronic Pain In The… Foot

Plantar fasciitis is perhaps the worst possible issue for an athlete or someone leading an active lifestyle. Ask me how I know – it’s the issue I had two decades ago that nearly destroyed my career. I recall waking up one morning thinking I must have stepped on a piece of glass or something. The odd sensation in my foot wasn’t like anything I’d ever experienced before. As an athlete, I’ve seen my pile of pains and injuries from broken bones to sprained ankles, torn cartilage in my knee, and of course aching muscles from strenuous workouts. But this type of pain was both mysterious to me when it occurred and it seemed like with everything I knew about managing instabilities and imbalanced I could alleviate this issue in just a few days… or at least a few weeks. Yet when it did occur, it was nearly two years of struggling with the pain. Having a pain in your foot adds insult to injury  – when your foot hurts you can’t walk without limping or thinking about how each step ached you just don’t move around well. You stop exercising, your mind gets cloudy, depressed, and ultimately the frustration and anger can even change your personality.

Now what’s fascinating is that plantar fasciitis must happen to a LOT of people. Why? Well, if you go to the internet, and type those words in, you will come up with nearly 5 million sites discussing the issues so obviously lots of people search for an answer. Not only that, there’s got to be over 2000 different types of footwear, gizmos, and therapies focused on this issue. As a curious investigator on pain, I spend time buzzing around the internet to read what others have to say about this particular type of foot pain. What I can tell you is the internet is full of misinformation, miracle cures, and conventional concepts that I am telling you honestly don’t work for 95% of the cases I see – nor did any of those traditional ways of working with this issue work for me when I suffered from the issue.

Plantar fasciitis is a very, very stubborn issue that for many comes and goes or gets progressively worse each day. On a biomechanical level (not to mention any research showing one great way to alleviate the issue) there’s not much in the way of evidence-based formulas out there and the reality is, treating the foot directly usually won’t alleviate most foot problems.

WHAT IS PLANTAR FASCIITIS?

Plantar fasciitis is basically an issue in the fascial sheaths that support both the bones and tendons of the foot – it’s considered a process of degeneration, strain, inflammation, or thickening of the fascial structures within the foot’s architecture. I think it’s way more complicated than that. Inflammation is misleading and often times I find there’s little to no inflammation rather it’s a lack of blood flow (so we could call it Plantar Fasciosis). In fact, I’ve seen numerous investigators worldwide that have shown the pathology underlying these conditions is lacking inflammation at all.

WHY DOES IT OCCUR?

This is a multifaceted answer as it’s partly caused by an arch issue and partly from the hip and postural instabilities and imbalances and partly from boney structural issues frequently found in feet. From the tiny muscles in the feet that support the arch and the fascial structures that allow the elastic recoil (springy buoyancy) to occur, daily living can destabilize and alter the fine balance of stiffness to elasticity in these structures causing them to overstretch, flatten out, or absorb too much body weight too fast.

There’s also an issue with the bones themselves. I personally have seen x-rays of both of my feet from the many years of ankle sprains, broken bones, and yes, plantar fasciitis. I’ve seen the bone spurs on both of my heel bones since I was 17. So when the doctor’s tried to tell me that’s what was causing my foot pain I said “I’ve had that spur for 20 years…how could it now be what’s causing my issues?”

So why does it occur? I have to tell you… I don’t really know. But when it does it sucks. What’s more important is what’s worked to get rid of the pain.

HOW TO GET RID OF PLANTAR FASCIITIS

There are a few ways I’ve seen plantar fasciitis pain end. One is super fast and seems like a miracle cure however I only know one guy who does this type of treatment (I’ve had him apply his treatment to me after I jumped off a dock into the water and landed right on a rock on my heel causing a reoccurrence of my plantar fasciitis pain). Christopher Gordon, a physiotherapist in Germany does a remedy of injections using Procain and Traumeel. I had him do literally one on me one time and in three days I could tell the pain was dying down. After a week, it was entirely gone. A year later, it’s still gone. So the reality is, sometimes there are miracle cures that end an issue in days. Alas, I can’t find anyone in the US who does this as we are well behind the European research on basically everything these days.

The second way is self-care and honing in on your overall stability, often times the culprits are far away from the foot architecture thus missed in most protocols. In our upcoming MELT App, I’ll have a designated channel on a MELT protocol specifically for foot pain. In the meantime, here are my 5 key tips and techniques to get you started on alleviating your foot pain:

  1. Change out your shoes. If you wear high heels cut it out. If you wear tight fitting shoes (this applies to women and men dress shoes to the wrong sneaker fit) I’d search out a different type of shoe. Also, in the summer months, wearing flip-flops, and those flat sandals may not cause immediate foot pain but come fall, once you put your regular shoes back on disaster can occur.
  2. Use an arch support. These are inexpensive and they do seem to help reduce the foot strain that causes this issue to remain and even get worse over time. Though it’s not a cure (you would always have to be wearing shoes…) it does reduce the pain while walking.
  3. MELT! The key sequence (using them in this order) helps most of my clients get relief:
    1. From the MELT Book Companion DVD – Upper Body Compression Sequence, Lower Body Compression Sequence, Lower Body Length Sequence (Focus on Hip To Heel Press)
    2. From the MELT Performance DVD – Lower Body Stability Sequence
    3. From the MELT Hand and Foot DVD – The Mini Soft Ball Foot Treatment and after 2 weeks do the Soft Ball Foot Treatment, Toe Rinsing and the Bunion Treatment (my secret sauce). The Bunion Treatment improves blood flow to the inner architecture of the foot and improves arch support and strength. I know, the name of the treatment can fool you but it’s proved to be a key aspect of reducing any type of foot or ankle pain for many of my clients.
  4. Un-tuck your bed sheets. When we are sleeping, the weight of the sheets and blankets can put your feet into plantarflexion (toe pointing) further shortening the tissues for the entire night – one reason morning foot pain is usually at its worst. Wear sock and keep your feet out of the bottom of the blanket if you can tolerate that. It really helps reduce morning foot pain.
  5. Legs against a wall pose. This one would require one of our MELT Resistant bands or one similar to it and either the MELT ½ Roller or a rolled up towel will do.
    1. As shown below, simply tie the ends of the band together, put the band around your waist and then bring your feet into the band. Be sure not to have the band around your toes, rather from the balls of your feet to the heel of the foot.
    2. Place the MELT ½ Roller, curved side up at the tops of your hips to allow the pelvis to gently drop towards the other side. Kick your legs up on a wall. This is not a passive position, rather you must be actively focusing on 3 things:
      1. Dorsiflex your ankles – this means you are working to send your ankles (not just your toes) into flexion so the sole of your foot is as flat to the ceiling as possible.
      2. Slightly externally rotate your legs at the hip – this causes a release to the internal rotators that are often out of balance causing instability down the leg. You want to feel like you are pushing the outside of your foot to the band. You will feel fatigue in your legs within a minute if you do this properly.
      3. Don’t hyperextend your knees but ensure they remain straight. You must focus on your pelvis moving towards the floor and your heels moving to the ceiling in equal timing.