Author: Ngametua Varu
There are more than 3 million cases of plantar fasciitis in the US every year and it is one of the most common causes of heel pain. Going untreated, plantar fasciitis can cause chronic pain in the heel and eventually could cause additional foot, knee, and hip problems.
Is massage therapy an effective treatment for plantar fasciitis?
Plantar Fasciitis, What Is It?
If we break down the name we see 'plantar' which refers to the bottom of the foot, 'fasci' meaning fascia or connective tissue, and 'itis' meaning inflammation. So plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the thick connective tissue on the bottom of the foot.
This plantar fascia is important for protecting the sole of your foot from injury as well as stabilizing the arch of the foot. When this tissue is inflamed, it can cause stabbing pain in the heel. The pain is usually worst in the morning when you get out of bed for the day and take your first few steps. This pain can also be triggered by standing for long periods of time or standing up after sitting. This can make simple things like standing in line at the grocery store a painful task.
Causes and Risk Factors:
The inflammation is caused by repeated stretching and tearing of the tissue. This tearing has no one cause but there are several risk factors making you more likely to have these symptoms.
Weight - Excess weight puts additional stress on the tissue
Age - Plantar fasciitis is most common in ages 40-60
Certain types of exercise - Long-distance running, ballet dancing, etc. can irritate the tissue
Jobs - Working at a job that requires you to stand or walk for long periods of time, can increase the risk of a tear.
Foot arch - The shape of your arch can determine how weight is distributed while standing. Flat feet, high arch, or an abnormal walking pattern can all affect the tissue.
So, Can Massage Help?
Yes! Deep tissue massage therapy is found to be effective by focusing pressure on the smaller underlying muscles of the foot and calf. Releasing tension and breaking up scar tissue will help with tissue healing over time. A therapist would work primarily on the area of most pain with a secondary focus on surrounding muscles. Common areas worked are the underside of the heel, the Achilles tendon, and up the calf.
While it is helpful to find a therapist to work deeply into those smaller muscles, it is also important to perform self-massage serval times per day. The best times are in the morning or before exercise. Some people will use a massage ball or tennis ball and roll it under their arch leaning into it to add pressure. Kneading and stretching the toes can also be good methods of self-treatment.
Ice treatments can help reduce inflammation within the tissue. It can be as simple as freezing a water bottle and rolling your foot over it for 10 to 15 minutes.
Additional treatment options can include:
Medication such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and pain.
In severe cases, surgery may be recommended to detach the fascia from the heel bone.
Physical therapy to strengthen lower leg muscles.
Do Your Feet Hurt?
If you've been experiencing sharp pain in the heel or chronic foot pain, talk to your doctor about your symptoms and discuss the potential of massage therapy as a treatment option. Taking care of your feet is important but something that is easily forgotten. Wearing supportive shoes and stretching frequently can help maintain your feet. If you have your own self-massage techniques for foot care, leave your tips in the comments below!