You are only ever as strong as your weakest link and for athletes on their feet all day that could very well be exacerbated by standing. Heel pain is very common among runner, workers on their feet all day, women who wear high heels, obese individuals and many others, you may not suffer with it as yet but you are not immune to it, the condition is known as Plantar Fasciitis.
One study found a definite correlation between someone’s body weight and plantar heel pain occurrence. Lifters often carry more body weight than an average person, this means that we can be more susceptible to Plantar Heel Pain.
Plantar Fasciitis is the most common form of heel pain, usually a result of inflammation along the thick band of tissue on the bottom part of the foot (Plantar Fascia), this connects the heel to the toes and supports the longitudinal arch of the foot.
Pain is more apparant in the morning, usually you feel a sharp poke in your heel as soon as you put it down on the floor, the pain is usually sharpest down the inside part of your heel and may extend to the entire bottom of your foot, the pain eases usually after a few minutes of walking, though it may persist throughout the day.
Plantar Fascia strain is typically caused by a biochemical imbalance leading to tension in the area. Biochemical causes include a tight gastrocnemius/soleus (calf), structural foot problems like flat feet or hindfoot valgus, hypo-mobile joints or even weak muscles further up the chain like the gluteus maximus or gluteus medius that indirectly strain the plantar fascia.
Faulty footwear or excessive impact cardio like brisk walking especially downhill or even running without letting your body rest between workouts can contribute to the condition.
A long-term study found that 805 of patients treated for plantar fasciitis recovered fully within four years. Below I have gathered together some conservative options to try to help you get back on your feet as soon as possible.
If your feet have structural problems such as flat feet, high arches or hindfoot valgus – orthotics can support your feet and lead to relieving foot problems or other orthopaedic ailments that relate to poor foot structure. General orthotics and custom orthotics can help relieve pain.
If you were to type ‘plantar fasciitis’ into a search engine, you would more than likely discover advertisements for compression socks. There is no current medical literature to support these sleeves, however their low-cost and noninvasive approach may be worth a try. The theory behind these socks is to provide support tot he plantar fascia and give compression which in turn can reduce pain.
These medicines taken in prescription grade dosages from your doctor can help alleviate the condition and associated inflammation of plantar fascia.
These provide a gentle, prolonged stretch to the plantar fascia, Achilles tendon and gastrocnemius whilst you sleep.
These injections have medicine that helps reduce inflammation as well as local painkillers to give instant relief. However it is worth bearing in mind that although these may relieve pain in the short-term, the original cause of the problem must still be addressed or you will still have ongoing symptoms. Some conflicting research states that corticosteroid injections can cause a weakening of the plantar fascia and may even lead to ruptured tendons in the future.
Rehabilitation can include modalities like electrical stimulation, ultrasound, extracorporeal shockwave therapy, low-level laser and ice, manual therapy techniques like joint and soft-tissue mobilization, custom orthotics fitting and therapeutic exercises to address flexibility and strength imbalances.
Although these treatments are viable options. Complete rest, ice and stretching for 7-21 days will often help relieve the pain on its own. Even wearing a second pair of socks for some people has provided additional relief as long as their feet are comfortable in their footwear.
Stretching the Achilles tendon and your calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) are critical to treating plantar fasciitis. A study conducted on the effects of the duration and frequency of Achilles tendon stretching on dorsiflexion and outcome in painful heel syndrome found that sustained and intermittent Achilles tendon stretching exercises increase flexibility in the Achilles tendon and this flexibility increase correlated with a lowering of pain.
It was concluded that sustained and intermittent stretching were noninvasive and effective methods for dealing with painful heel syndrome.
It is important technique when stretching the calves, consideration should be given to the hindfoot position when performing dorsiflexion stretches to prevent mid-foot injury and ensure a direct stretch of the triceps surae muscle.
It is best to perform the stretches bare foot to ensure your foot is in the correct position,a bit of final advice to avoid further heel damage and plantar fasciitis pain is to avoid impact cardio like running or walking, especially downhill and also ensure you have proper footwear that supports your feet. If the pain continues after several weeks it would be worth consulting your podiatrist or similar to ensure proper treatment is reached.
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