Saturday, May 28, 2011

Living With Plantar Faciitis

by Kris Pitcher

You know you're getting older when your social conversation revolves around over use injuries instead of what band you saw, or movie you went to...or book you last read. Lately, it seems a lot of conversations have been about plantar faciitis.

There is a thick band of tissue, facia, that runs from your heel to your toes. Basically if you were to place your hand with the heel of your palm at the heel of your foot, running your fingers toward your toes - that's what your plantar facia would look like. It connects your heel bone to your toes. There's our anatomy for the day.

The facia becomes both inflamed and tight due to over use, and lack of stretching. But it's not just over use from exercise which can cause this inflammation. Rapid weight gain, obesity, shoes with poor arch support, and having a tight Achilles tendon (connecting your calf muscle) can all be contributing factors.

Most commonly, pain in the arch or heel is the give away. It's often worse in the morning and can get better through the day with activity. As with any "itis" inflammation can be frustrating, debilitating, and can keep you not only from your exercise but also from activities of daily living.

What to do? Reducing the inflammation is key. RICE - rest/ice/compression/elevation is a good place to start. Icing the bottom of your tender foot can be painful in itself. But, take a plastic water bottle and freeze it. Roll your foot on the frozen bottle for 5 minutes while you watch TV. Many doctors would recommend taking an anti-inflammatory, I'm no doctor. Consult one.

Compression is another great way to get a hold of the inflammation. Taping your foot will help support it. Get yourself to the meg-a-low mart and buy a roll of athletic tape. Take a piece and run it around the perimeter of your foot from the knuckle of your big toe, around your heel to the knuckle of your little toe (my husband skips this part, so you can see there's more than one way to do it). Then you'll take strips and run them under your arch - as your toes are flexed toward your shin (dorsi flexion). Careful not to tape too'll know when you stand up if it's too tight. This makes a world of difference.

Massaging the bottom of your foot on a tennis ball also helps to increase blood flow to the facia, while stretching the foot. Again, do this while you are seated. It feels nice, if you can keep it away from the dog.

Rest, well that part is difficult. But if you're having a particularly bad flair up, you might not want to run a marathon. Some people get custom orthodics. I have them and find it actually makes my plantar faciitis worse. I keep mine in the back of the closet somewhere. You have to find a treatment combination that works for you.

Another important thing we don't think about is making sure our bed covers aren't too tight at the foot of the bed. Seems silly but if they are too tight our feet are pointed all night (in plantar flexion), tightening our calves and our arches. Simple fix there. Having supportive athletic shoes is of course important. I'm not just saying that so you can buy new shoes either. Shoes wear out.

Consistency with any treatment is the key. You will have to keep doing it. Faciitis unfortunately doesn't just go away, but you can live with it. Sorry. But you can control the inflammation which is critical to living with your new, braggable, over use injury. Welcome to the club!

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