When Your Feet Are on Fire
Your alarm goes off. You wake up suddenly. You know it’s time to get out of bed but you are dreading it. It’s not the morning meeting that’s on your mind or concerns about the traffic on your commute to work. You are dreading those first few steps. As you place one foot on the ground, and then the other, raising your body out of bed, you feel sharp, hot pain in your heels. You catch yourself on the door frame. Your feet don’t want to move forward. You take a deep breath, you push through the pain, and after another several steps, it’s bearable.
Does this sound familiar? If so, you may be experiencing plantar fasciitis.
What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel and foot pain. It occurs when the strong band of tissue that supports the arch of your foot becomes irritated and inflamed. That strong band of tissue is known as the plantar fascia. It is a long, thin ligament that lies directly under the skin on the bottom of your foot. It connects your heel to the front of your foot.
The role of the plantar fascia is to support the arch of your foot. Under normal conditions, it acts as a shock absorber. It stretches and lengthens as the body loads the foot in walking, running, jumping and other weight-bearing activities. But sometimes, too much pressure damages or tears the tissues. Plantar fasciitis is believed to be caused by repeated microtrauma to the plantar fascia. The body’s natural response to injury or trauma is inflammation. This results in the sharp, burning foot pain and stiffness of plantar fasciitis.
What does plantar fasciitis feel like?
If you have ever experienced plantar fasciitis, you know how uncomfortable it can be. Symptoms can include:
- Pain on the bottom of the foot near the heel.
- Pain in the arch or base of the toes can occur but is less common.
- Pain with the first few steps after getting out of bed in the morning. It can also occur after a period of rest, such as after a long car ride, or after sitting at your desk for a couple of hours. The pain lessens with a few minutes of walking
- Greater pain after (not during) exercise or activity.
Who is at risk of developing plantar fasciitis?
Although foot pain is common, some people have a greater risk of developing plantar fasciitis than others. Risk factors include:
- Age: Plantar fasciitis is most common between the ages of 40 and 60.
- Types of exercise or activity: Movements that place significant stress on your heels and feet – such as long-distance running, high-intensity or repetitive jumping, ballet and other forms of dance – can contribute to an earlier onset of plantar fasciitis.
- Foot type and foot mechanics: Having flat feet, dropped arches, and high arches can be risk factors. Abnormal gait can also affect the way weight is distributed when you’re standing and walking putting added stress on the plantar fascia.
- Weight: Being overweight puts extra stress on your limbs and therefore on the tissues in your feet that support you.
- Occupations: Jobs that keep you on your feet – such as factory work, nursing and others requiring prolonged standing on hard surfaces – can increase your risk of developing foot dysfunctions and pain.
How to manage plantar fasciitis?
With appropriate management, the pain associated with plantar fasciitis will decrease. However, it can take several weeks to several months to resolve completely, especially if the plantar fascia continues to be aggravated. The following recommendations are important when managing symptoms of plantar fasciitis:
- Rest from aggravating activities. If you are training for your first 10km race, for example, listen to your body (and to your feet), and take the time to rest. Follow treatment recommendations so that you can return to pain-free running.
- Use custom foot orthotics. They fit comfortably in your footwear to improve the alignment and correction of the foot function. They provide the support and cushioning that your arch and heels need to prevent painful foot conditions, including plantar fasciitis.
- Wear appropriate footwear. Whether you are at work, in the house or running errands, choose shoes that support your feet. Avoid flats, heels and going barefoot when you are managing symptoms of plantar fasciitis.
- Use ice regularly to decrease pain. You can soak your feet in a cold water bath. Another option is to freeze a water bottle and roll your foot on the frozen bottle.
- Stretch your calves, lower legs and feet.
- After the acute stages of inflammation, focus on strengthening as well as continued stretching of the muscles in the lower legs and feet.
- Foam rolling and rolling on therapy balls are great ways to relieve tightness in the lower legs, calves and feet associated with plantar fasciitis. Regular foam rolling can also prevent future episodes.
- Massage therapy can help too. Both the plantar fascia and plantar flexor muscles are often tender to palpation and may contain myofascial trigger points. Research suggests that deep massage of the posterior calf combined with stretching may improve the function of patients with plantar fasciitis.
- Physiotherapy can provide a variety of modalities including shockwave therapy, acupuncture and instrument-assisted myofascial release to mention a few.
- Chiropractic care can have many benefits when it comes to foot, ankle and heel pain. Improving posture and alignment can be the first step to long-term relief. Chiropractic care of the low back, pelvis and lower extremities will help improve mobility and relieve tension placed on the tissues of your feet.
So don’t ignore that foot pain! Your feet are your foundation. Take care of them and they will keep you moving.
Visit us online for more information or to book an assessment with one of our healthcare providers including chiropractors, physiotherapists, and massage therapists at our CURAVITA Glebe and Byward locations.