Get on Track: Beating Plantar Fasciitis
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar Fasciitis (pronounced "PLAN-ter fash-ee-EYE-tus") is an inflammation of the Plantar Fascia, the tissue along the bottom of your foot that connects your heel bone to your toes, and supports your arch. This condition affects over 2 million Americans and is typically characterized by intense stabbing pain in the heel - particularly first thing in the morning or after a period of activity. In many cases the pain decreases as the fascia warms up during the day but some poor sufferers (typically those with a chronic condition) are plagued all day with the pain.
What happens to the fascia?
Think of your plantar fascia as your body's shock absorber. Throughout the day the fascia supports the arch of the foot in carrying the weight of the body. Sometimes, when the impact is too great, tiny tears will appear in the fascia. If the impact level continues unchanged, in time these tears will become inflamed.
What causes it?
Basically this condition is caused by excessive wear to the plantar fascia or biomechanical faults causing the inward rotation of your foot. In most cases it can be attributed to long periods of weight bearing particularly when using unsupportive footwear, extra weight bearing, obesity, inactivity, poor weight distribution due to faulty foot mechanics, or sudden changes in weight distribution (as when playing sports).
So what can be done?
Most sufferers are able to overcome the pain with non-invasive therapy and get back to their work or favorite pursuits. If left untreated however, there is a risk that the condition will become chronic which can possibly lead to a host of other issues. Typically we find that what happens in the feet directly impacts the proper functioning of the knees, hips, and back as you change your body mechanics to adjust for the pain or discomfort.
The good news is there are many steps you can take right in your own home to speed your recovery time and prevent this condition from reoccurring all you need is the right information, the right tools, and the right attitude.
What do I do first?
Treatment needn't be invasive or painful. Most treatment plans focus on temporarily avoiding the activity causing the inflammation, stretching and warming the affected area, bringing down the inflammation, and healing the tears. MendMeShop® has the tools you need to specifically treat plantar fasciitis pain:
- A Plantar Freezie Wrap® (cold compression eases swelling and inflammation) shop
- A Plantar Inferno Wrap® (Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™ Inferno Wrap® warms and relaxes the tight fascia) shop
- A MendMeShop® Ultrasound Device (ultrasound therapy breaks down scar tissue to prevent re-injury of the plantar) shop
How do I stop it from coming back?
Treatment is only the first step. The next step is to find out why it happened in the first place. The reasons will vary among suffers, but as mentioned earlier there are a few factors commonly associated with increased risk of developing plantar fasciitis, notably carrying excess weight and inactivity, activity overload, wearing unsupportive shoes, and faulty foot mechanics. To prevent a recurrence of plantar fasciitis these factors need to be addressed:
Drop the weight
The Mayo clinic states that if your Body Mass Index (BMI); that is, the ratio between your height and age, is between 25 and 29.9 you are considered overweight - above that is considered obese. Maintaining a healthy weight range is important to reduce the load on your arches. This will go a long way in combating plantar fasciitis as well as a host of other medical and emotional problems. Your waist measurement and medical history are also important factors: it's worth speaking to your doctor about if you fall within this category. To measure your BMI, click here.
If you find that your BMI is above the healthy range, know that there are simple steps you can take to get you to that healthy range. Although there have been countless books, pills, and diets dedicated to finding the magic pill to weight loss, there really is no such secret. The basic principle of weight loss is simple; energy in must be slightly less than energy out. That is, don't consume more than you expend. This is the key - you need to watch what you eat and get moving; if you commit to both of these goals you will see the results of a steady and safe weight loss. For more info on how to get started, click here.
Fix your gait and your shoes
Faulty bio-mechanics of your foot can be responsible for numerous foot conditions including plantar fasciitis and heel spurs; however, if left uncorrected it may lead to other complications including shin splints, runner's knee, jumper's knee, ilio-tibial band syndrome, sacroiliac joint dysfunctions, and chronic low back pain.
Pronation (the inward rotation of your foot) can put pressure on your arch and aggravate the fascia. Having a high arch, being flat-footed, or having an abnormal gait can affect weight distribution putting extra pressure on the fascia as it works to absorb the impact.
How do you know if you have faulty foot mechanics? Look at your shoes. Is one side of the heel more worn than the other? This is a good indication of either pronation or over-pronation (rolling out) and both lead to complications. Your best course of action is to havE your gait checked by a professional. This can be done by a podiatrist, orthopaedist, or physical therapist. These days many specialty footwear stores have equipment and experts in house as well but be sure to check their credentials first.
Now you know what you are doing wrong but to make a lasting difference you also need to consider your footwear. All the efforts in the world to fix your gait won't amount to much if you still insist on walking around the mall for 4 hours in your 3 inch heals or taking a hike in your sandals - Plantar Fasciitis is often called flip-flop disease and for good reason. If you are overweight or if you intend to spend a long time on your feet while carrying extra weight or are planning a long walk or run - it is absolutely critical to the health of your feet that you wear supportive shoes. This means shoes with some arch support, a slightly raised but stable heel, and cushioning for shock absorption. Wear hiking boots for hiking, running shoes for running and walking, and save the flip flops for the beach and the heels for the dance floor. And when recommended, use orthothics to correct your stride.
Activity: too much/too little
Finally, the third most important aspect to consider in preventing Plantar Fasciitis is how much you are asking of your feet.
The old adage, "move it or lose it" is true to a certain point for all soft tissue. Your soft tissues are intended to be used, to be stretched, or called upon for support and strength. Of course, moving your body is a critical factor in maintaining or reducing your weight but it goes further, you need to keep all the parts of your body moving regularly in order to ensure their proper function. Immobilization and inactivity is known to cause atrophy and early fatigue in muscle tissue and can lessen the levels of collagen and water in connective tissue making it less elastic, more brittle, and weaker. For good foot health, wear sensible shoes and get those feet moving.
Of course there is another adage we need to consider - "You can have too much of a good thing". It is not uncommon to see physical therapists' and podiatrists' waiting rooms filled with high-performance runners and weekend warriors. Many of us have been taught to push through the pain to achieve our goals - and this is evidenced at extreme endurance events over and over. However, if you want to be in it for the long run you have to learn to listen to your body's signals. Foot pain means there is something wrong - something that needs to be fixed. Left untreated, you will more than likely develop a chronic condition that will very likely lead to further complications. Don't jump in head first to your exercise program, go feet first and be smart: get advice, start slowly and listen to your body.
Plantar Fasciitis is a painful and debilitating condition that can stop you in your tracks. But have hope, with Plantar Fasciitis treatments from MendMeShop®, and a few steps in the right direction you can successfully treat the pain and stop it from coming back. You have the right tools and the right information, now it's up to you to take action and get back on your feet again!
Please be aware that this information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.