Imagine walking around in the comfort of your own home to perform simple tasks but, with every step you take, you cringe in pain. For some of you, this may sound very familiar. Every year, about 2 million Americans are treated for a condition known as plantar fasciitis . It is a near crippling pain and it impairs daily functionality, but with proper care and maintenance you can definitely bring that pep back into your step.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Let's start off by explaining what the plantar fascia is. The plantar fascia is a thick band of connective tissue that originates at the heel of the foot then diverges into five
separate strands which insert at each toe . This band of tissue is what forms the arch of your foot.
It may seem like a small band of tissue but it has a big job to do. Remember all those hours spent standing on the job, or all the sports you played, or running up and down the stairs chasing after your kids? Well, your plantar fascia was responsible for absorbing all the shock and stress from those every day events . When this band of tissue gets overused and over-stressed it can become inflamed and develop tears.
What Are the Symptoms?
If you have plantar fasciitis it will be pretty easy to detect. You would be suffering from pain on the underside of your foot near the heel. This pain limits your mobility and, chances are, if you tried to dorsiflex your foot (lift it upward) right now you could not do it fully and without pain . The pain is usually most severe when you wake up in the morning and take those first few steps, and when you are off of your feet for long periods of time then begin walking. Even though the pain may subside after you take those initial steps and walk a little more, that does not mean it is getting better or going away. It is important that you listen to your body and take action early.
What Causes It and Am I At Risk?
If you are always on your feet or are frequently running around, i.e. playing sports, then you are putting a lot of stress on your feet. In addition to that, if
you are not regularly stretching your feet and calves, then all of that stress and pressure is likely to culminate into a serious condition.
YOU CAN ALSO BE AT RISK IF:
Your calf muscles are tight, or if you frequently wear high heels without regularly stretching. Heels put your foot in a constant extended position (plantar flexion), so the calf muscle begins to shorten.
You over-pronate meaning your feet fall too far inward when you step
You are overweight, putting undue stress on your feet
You have overly high arches or overly flat feet
You are between the ages of 40 and 60 which is when it is most common 
How Can I Stop the Pain?
Before you take any drastic measures, you must know that sometimes the pain associated with plantar fasciitis can be mistaken for tarsal tunnel syndrome. Therefore, it is important to see your primary care physician to see what condition you have and the treatment you need.
Alright, I have some good news and some not so fun news: The good news is plantar fasciitis can be self remedied! The not so fun news is it may take a few months of consistent care for it to completely heal. You can look at it this way, it takes some time for most conditions like plantar fasciitis to develop, so you can expect the healing process to take some time as well. Also, the plantar fascia is a ligament, and ligaments have very little blood flow. This means the healing process is slowed down because the blood - which helps remove waste from the area and carries nutrients and oxygen to the site for healing - is not plentiful. If your condition is not very severe, you can start by utilizing the "at home" remedies right away. However, there are some people who need to use other measures like wearing a foot splint at night to keep the plantar fascia in a stretched position, getting steroid shots, and even surgery.
It is very important, though, to first take the following measures to heal from plantar fasciitis because over 90% of people who follow these measures improve in the first 10 months :
1. R.I.C.E. Method
This method is an acronym that stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. If there is ever an injury done to the tissues where swelling and pain ensues, this is the method to use right away.
Rest: Try to stay off of your feet as much as possible to minimize the amount of stress on them. If you play sports you will need to slow down or even take a break from it until you can recover.
Ice: Icing your heel helps to reduce inflammation and pain. You can ice 3 to 4 times a day in 20 minute sittings. You can also roll a cold can around on the bottom of you feet while you sit.
Compression: There are many wraps that you can buy specifically for plantar fasciitis that will help to decrease some of the pain and swelling when walking and limit movements that will cause further discomfort.
Elevation: When you are icing your heel try to elevate your foot above the level of your heart. This will keep the blood from rushing to your heel which will decrease inflammation.
Stretching is of grave importance! I think I need to say that again...STRETCHING IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO! In fact, not stretching enough is what lead to the plantar fasciitis. If you continue to run your body into the ground without giving it time to rest and rebuild through stretching, you will encounter many injuries that later turn into severe conditions.
-In order to stretch the calf muscle and the plantar fascia, you should implement static stretching which is passively taking a muscle to the point of tension. Since the calf muscle tends to be tight when you have plantar fasciitis, stretch it by putting your foot on an incline with your leg straight, and hold that stretch for at least 30 seconds. To stretch the plantar fascia, sit down with your legs flat and place a band or rope near the ball of your foot, then pull your foot toward you. Both stretches need to be done at least 3 times a day (initially, until you can handle more) and can be done after you get out of the shower so that your muscles are nice and warm and can be stretched more easily. This is also recommended to do as soon as you wake up in the morning before you take your first steps.
-This next stretch is my favorite because, as an athlete, I am always putting stress on my feet: Place a baseball (or tennis ball if you have a lot of pain) under your foot while you are standing and apply gentle pressure to your foot. As soon as you roll over areas of tenderness, hold the baseball on that area for at least 30 seconds. This type of stretching is known as self myofascial release. So, the next time someone gives you a massage you can educate them by letting them know they are using self myofascial release when they apply pressure to your body tissues!
Plantar Fasciitis Stretches
Plantar fasciitis can bring excruciating pain. When that happens, feel free to take some pain relievers like Ibuprofen, Aleve, etc., which will also help to reduce the swelling. However, do not go crazy with the pills and depend solely on that to alleviate your pain. You still need to put in the work towards proper healing of your foot so that scar tissue does not develop.
4. Examine Your Shoes
Even if you do not suffer from plantar fasciitis, you should invest in shoes that are supportive for your feet. You may need to see your doctor about orthotics, or purchase shoe inserts/ heel cushions to reduce the pain and pressure when walking. People who over pronate are at risk for developing plantar fasciitis, and you can find out if you over pronate by doing a simple shoe test: Take off one of your shoes and look at the back of it. On the underside of your shoe at the heel, you should see one side that is more worn down than the other side. If you see that the inside of your shoe is more worn down than the outside, then you over pronate. To help with this, you can look for shoes that provide more support specifically for the inside of your feet.
This portion of the healing process may not be implemented until you are farther along and have less pain, but if you are overweight you need to decrease the amount of pressure added to your feet by doing exercises. Perform light exercises that require little to no standing - like water aerobics. You can start by exercising 3x per week for 30 minutes. Eventually, you will be able to exercise for a longer period of time if you choose, but you must take it slowly in the beginning. Maintaining a proper diet along with your exercise will also help to shed the pounds. As I stated earlier, I am constantly training, so I definitely utilize these at home methods to keep my body in top shape. In addition, I take all natural, Non GMO, and gluten free supplements to reduce inflammation in my body, fill in the nutritional gaps in my diet, and decrease the muscle soreness felt after a workout! There is so much out there to help us maintain a healthy lifestyle which is why we do the hard work for you and pick out the real from the fake!
Even though you are suffering from plantar fasciitis, it is not a death sentence. By that, I mean you do not have to settle with discomfort and sub-optimal living. You can choose to do something about it! The sooner you begin your treatment the sooner you can get back to doing all the daily tasks you love. Let's face it, you really don't have the time off from work to spend on things that YOU could have prevented early before they became a big issue. So, do yourself a big favor and choose to live your life to the fullest by kicking that heel pain to the curb!
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