Painful first step in the morning- Dealing with Plantar Fasciitis

Posted: April 29, 2015 in Recovering from Injuries
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Have you ever had experienced feeling pain on your heel when stepping off your bed in the morning or after long periods of sitting? The pain usually decreases after walking for a few minutes. This usually happens to people who stand for extended periods of time like teachers, security guards, and nurses. It can also happen to runners, flat footed or high arch footed individuals, and heavy individuals as well.

 

Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition. It is the inflammation and tightening of the plantar fascia of one or both fe280823885_640et. The plantar fascia is the strong fibrous sheet covering the muscles of the feet. It originates from the calcaneous or the heel bone and fans out and connects to the metatarsal heads (just before the toes). The hallmark symptom of this condition is the painful first step in the morning. The pain on each step causes discomfort and lessens productivity at work, performance in sports, and the satisfaction from leisure physical activities. It is not an emergency case but since it involves locomotion, it is not something that can be ignored.

 

What are the causes? Prolonged daily standing and frequent and regular hiking or running are the common activities associated with plantar fasciitis. img-blog-03The foot has an arch, or like a bow, and the plantar fascia is the bowstring. Some individuals have very tight “bowstring”. Some have flat feet- which makes for a weak plantar fascia. Prolonged standing, and constant running or walking stresses and irritates the overly tight or the weak plantar fascia. The constant irritation on the plantar fascia causes them to inflame and become tight. This pulls on their origin on the calcaneous and the fascia is strained mostly near the insertion. There may be small tears especially if the fascia is very tight.

 

plantar-fasciitis-shoes-sandals-5How do we ease the discomfort? Shoe inserts help to lessen the discomfort. Taping can also be done but just like shoe inserts, this is a temporary solution and is used usually by athletes who cannot use footwear when training. Buying athletic tape or kinesio tape and applying them costs time and money too. Although this is an option that would be done depending on one’s situation. The main solution however, is to prevent the plantar fascia from being irritated. Causes of irritation are usually  a combination of activities like prolonged standing, constant running or walking; conditions like obesity or simply being too heavy; weak and or tight plantar fascia due to flat feet or high arched feet; or running or walking foot mechanics that predispose the foot arch to excessive stress. It is not possible to change the foot from a flat foot to a normal foot. But the cause of the irritation can be addressed. The physical irritation is caused by the unnecessary  tightness and weakness of the plantar fascia. This magnifies the normal stress it encounters during daily activities like standing, walking, and running especially if it is prolonged. The best solution is to stretch the plantar fascia as well as to strengthen the foot intrinsic muscles so as to enable them to cope with the stress and thus avoid irritation and swelling and pain. It also helps to stretch the Tendon of Achilles.

 

pfstretch

Massage and stretch your own feet. Do it after your usual training routine.

There are exercises to stretch the plantar fascia, as well as the tendon of achilles. The exercises are simple and easy. They are best done after a training session during the cool down period. Better incorporate it into an existing routine which would increase its chances of being accomplished. The stretching exercises are best done with 20 to 30 seconds hold at the stretched position, then flex the joints and massage the sole of the foot. Repeat 5 to 10 times per leg. Do it with your regular training routine or around 2-3 times a week. It can be done more often since it is very light exercise.

 

golf ball massage

This can be done while typing in front of the computer. It makes you do two things at the same time!

An addition to the stretching exercise is foot massage. And this can be done with golf balls or similar hard balls. A practical way of doing the foot massage with the hard ball is to put the ball under your office or study table. Step on the ball and roll it back and forth and side to side with your foot. Do it when you can or around 5 to 10 minutes at a time. It can be pleasurably painful. It can be done while doing some paperwork too which makes work fun!

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towel pullAnother exercise can be done to improve the function of the foot intrinsic muscles. This is called towel pulls. Put a towel on the floor with your toes on the bottom of the long end. Keep your heel on the floor while your toes pull the towel towards you. Do two to three towel lengths for each foot. It is best to do the stretching exercises after the towel pull.

Read here for other ankle exercises.

 

heel-pain-exercises

The calf stretch helps. Incorporate it into your usual cool down routine.

The discomfort caused by plantar fasciitis may take a few months to subside. It also takes time to stretch the tough plantar fascia. Sometimes it comes back which means the conditions leading to it are present again: weak and tight plantar fascia, prolonged standing, overweight. This basically means that we need to pay attention to ourselves. Injuries, whether due to acute trauma or through a slow build-up from many factors, are messages that we need to pay attention to. Acute injuries are mostly due to a big and sudden “error” on how we move.

(Read this for exercises to lower your ankle incidence)

Overuse injuries and inflammation of tendons and fascia are usually caused by a combination of repetitive movement and flawed joint mechanics. We feel the pain when damage has been done. Let your body recover and address tightness or weakness or both. Sometimes it means reducing training volume and intensity. Sometimes injuries and usual aches happen to let us re-focus and think. Heed your body’s warnings, Train Better, Live Better!

Comments
  1. […] the objective is to strengthen the intrinsic foot muscles, towel pulling exercises with the foot (see related post) and simply walking barefoot over a grassy lawn for a few minutes would do the trick- and this is […]

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