Not being completely awake you soon are when the searing pain from your foot touching the floor reaches your brain at the speed of 350 feet per second, that’s way faster than NBN by the way. Just as quickly your foot recoils to your chin running the risk of a second injury. What is this? It’s plantar fasciitis. Often referred to as ‘the red hot poker’, ‘fire walking’ or ‘standing on a nail’. Somewhat comical references but far from an amusing experience.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar Fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia which is a thick section of connective tissue that runs along the sole of the foot. It connects the toe to the heel and creates the arch of the foot. The heel pain or foot pain can range from hobbling around first thing in the morning when you get out of bed for a few minutes to excruciating pain whenever you put weight on the foot.
What causes Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar Fasciitis is caused by damage to the plantar fascia which can come from overstretching, overuse or excessive tension of the calf muscles. Some of the more common causes are.
- Collapsing arches
- Poor foot support when wearing shoes
- Standing for long periods
- Standing on hard surfaces
- Increased activity
- Excessive muscle tension
- Long periods of extension of the foot
- Heel spur
What are the symptoms?
Pain tends to be aggravated by:
- Long periods of sitting or standing
- First thing in the morning when you get out of bed
- After increased physical activity involving the legs
How is plantar fasciitis diagnosed?
In most cases plantar fasciitis is diagnosed by the presenting symptoms. In some cases further investigation such as X-ray or ultrasound may be used to rule out any other conditions.
Is plantar fasciitis difficult to treat?
The problem is that to help relieve the pain related to plantar fasciitis we need to be able to reduce the inflammation. But the inflammation is there because there is stress or damage to the tissue. The tissue needs rest to be able to heal. But because so much of what we do in our day to day lives involves being on our feet it can be hard to give the appropriate amount of rest to ensure long term pain relief.
The other issue is whenever we feel pain the muscles around the area tighten to protect the area and reduce the amount of movement. However increasing the tension means more stress on the plantar fascia and more heel pain.
To add to this lack of movement results in our muscles getting gradually shorter again putting more pressure on the heel pain and therefore preventing it from reducing.
How can it be treated?
- Pain relief medication (read more to find out the risks)
- Steroid injections
- Activity adjustment or rest
- Sole inserts for shoes
- Increased padding under feet if standing for long periods
- Gentle stretching
- Massage therapy
- Diet adjustment
The key to effective treatment of plantar fasciitis is to provide the right amount of gentle stretching, reduce inflammation and improve mobility.
How can Evolve Natural Medicine help?
Nutritional supplementation – can be useful for reducing general inflammation of the body. Items such as fish oils, boswellia, turmeric can have powerful anti-inflammatory effects helping to relieve pain.
Chinese Medicine – The use of Chinese herbs has been around for centuries and has treat pain and inflammation. Recent studies (1) have been able to isolate the mechanisms by which this occurs. These mechanisms include reduction of pro-inflammatory pathways or cytokines, Cox-2 inhibition and antimicrobial effect.
Acupuncture – A recent review (2) of acupuncture randomised double blind control trials showed potential positive effect in the treatment of heel pain. Acupuncture can be effective at reducing muscle tension and as such can help to reduce the pressure and strain on the fascia in plantar fasciitis. Acupuncture also has a strong anti-inflammatory effect and as such can further assist with pain relief. (3) A systematic review carried out by he US department of Veteran Affairs found in 2014 (4) found evidence of potential positive effect in pain management of plantar heel pain.
Diet – More recent understanding of the gut has shown that poor gut function can significantly increase levels of inflammation and pain in the body. As a result looking at diet and dietary habits may assist to reduce overall inflammation and therefore provide pain relief in issues such as plantar fasciitis.
- Rekik A. Muluye, Yuhong Bian, Paulos N. Alemu. Anti-inflammatory and Antimicrobial Effects of Heat-Clearing Chinese Herbs: A Current Review, Journal of Traditional Complementary Medicine 2014 Apr-Jun; 4(2): 93–98.
- Clark Richard J, Tighes Maria, The Effectiveness of Acupuncture for Plantar Heel Pain: a systematic review. Acupuncture in Medicine · October 2012
- The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, An International Journal of Comparative Medicine East and West. Efficacy of Electro-Acupuncture in Chronic Plantar Fasciitis: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Wipoo Kumnerddee and Nitsara Pattapong. Volume 40, Issue 06, 2012
- Hempel, S., Taylor, S. L., Solloway, M. R., Miake-Lye, I. M., Beroes, J. M., Shanman, R., et al. (2014). Evidence Map of Acupuncture. Washington (DC): Department of Veterans Affairs.