By Dee Clement, M Ed, MA
The plantar fascia is a tough thick band. Its 3 fibrous structures help hold up the arch – from the heel to the ball of the foot. A rich blood supply and high degree of flexibility are essential for proper functioning. A minor tear or pull in the fascia can painfully hamper daily activities. Plantar fasciitis is also known as calcaneal spur syndrome. It can mimic the pain of a stone bruise in the heel.
“If heel pain is felt during the first few steps after sleep – I immediately think of a problem with the plantar fascia”, says Dr William Hamilton, Orthopedic Surgeon for the N Y City Ballet.
Constant contact with hard or irregular surfaces
Structural / biomechanical abnormalities
Repeated stress to the foot
Dr Perry H Julian, foot specialist for the 1996 Olympic games, states, “One of the most common causes of plantar fasciitis is tightness of the calf and achilles tendon.” I agree with Dr. Julian. More importantly muscle tightness is usually traced to trigger points! And, that’s where my approach is focused.
When the foot becomes fatigued the musculature becomes compromised. Muscle support and locomotion are hampered. An environment ripe for the creation of trigger points is generated. Trigger points are knotty, involuntary contractions of muscle bundles. They prevent the host muscle form relaxing and recovering. Trigger points are painful. The foot contains 126 ligaments, muscles and tendons, so there is plenty of hiding places for trigger points. These aggravating little knots can be found in any muscle. In fact, trigger points in the calf often refer pain directly to the bottom of the foot. Therefore, trigger point therapy of the lower leg and foot is essential in the successful management of plantar fasciitis.
I like to start the treatment with the lower leg. I recommend and use a trigger point therapy product called the Intracell Stick. Of the several different models, I prefer the short length with good flexibility. The Intracell Stick compresses and stretches muscle. It simultaneously moves fluids. The Stick performs trigger point therapy and myofascial release – with virtually no effort.
Step 1 – [about 30 seconds]
Place the hands close together for better control and easier use of the Intracell Stick.
Begin by rolling the muscles outside the shin bone – use short, specific, back-and-forth strokes
Roll lengthwise, starting at just below the knee to immediately above the ankle
Search for trigger points [ouch pain] and roll with a progressively deeper pressure. When found … roll trigger poonts an additional 10 – 15 seconds
Step 2 – [about 45 seconds]
Follow the same procedure for the calf muscles as you did in step 1
The area between the two large muscles of the calf, downward to the heel cord, usually needs special attention
I always end the session on the calf with several long back-and-forth rolling strokes
The Foot Regimen
Treatment to the bottom of the foot has always presented a problem for me. In the past I’ve massaged my own feet with coke bottles, frozen cans of juice, golf balls – you name it. Recently I discovered a simple, yet very effective, body tool that absolutely eliminates shortened, tight plantar fascia. It’s called a FootWheel. The FootWheel easily compresses and stretches the complex musculature of the plantar fascia. This process increases fluid circulation and rapidly permits chronically shortened muscles to relax and recover. The 3 treating surfaces of the FootWheel are designed to target the 3 major support muscles of the foot.
Step 3 – [about 45 seconds] Procedure
Place the FootWheel on a thick carpet or heavy towel – always stand
Support your weight on the opposite side, and begin rolling the bottom of the foot. Use gentle, pleasant, but firm pressure
Roll the 3 therapeutic wheels to locate and destroy trigger points
Trigger points will be recognized as tight, knotty, tender bands of muscle
When trigger points are located [ouch pain] – continue rolling for 15 / 20 additional seconds
Move slowly and be gentle. Use specific, short, back-and-forth movements
Be sure to tilt and roll the foot – on both the inside and outside – before completing the session.
The foregoing is an amazingly effective procedure to prevent or manage plantar fasciitis. It takes about 3 minutes. Use the techniques at least twice per day – namely before and after a night’s sleep. Use more often if needed. Keep the sessions short and gentle to avoid soreness. Progress is gauged by the way you feel and the number of trigger points you extinguish. Healthy, happy feet are free to tenderness, soreness & pain … even during rollouts.
Good luck and keep on rolling!
REMEMBER, this is an article based on the empirical findings of the author. The suggestions, procedures and ideas are not intended to replace or substitute the medical advice of the readers’ healthcare provider. Please consult your personal healthcare practitioner before adopting any of the suggestions.