Health and Fitness: Foot Health Article Category

Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the connective tissue that travels on the bottom of your foot from your heel to your forefoot. It can also be known as a heel spur although they're not necessarily the same. You may experience pain in your heel or in your arch, usually worse first thing in the morning, that gets better once you take a few steps. The pain may come and go throughout the day. So what's causing this?

Our tendency is to locate the source of pain and then - rub it, poke it, heat it up, cool it down, inject it, or cut it out. While any of these may be effective, they are treating the end result, and not the source of the problem. This is akin to replacing your right front tire of your car every 3 months because it keeps wearing down. The problem is that your front end is misaligned and the worn out tire is the outward symptom.

The most common cause of plantar fasciitis is a subluxation (mis-alignment) of the joints in the lower half of your body. Now I know that the first thing you thought of was "the bones of my foot are misaligned?". Ah, ah, ah...We need to go further up the chain. Although the source of the misalignment may be in your foot, it is significantly more common for this to be occurring in the low back or pelvis. When your low back or pelvis become subluxated, it alters your gait (walking or running pattern). This causes 2 things: leg-length differences leading to muscle-length differences. This leads to excessive pull on the plantar fascia due to the altered mechanics. One leg becomes longer, there is reduced dorsiflexion (bringing foot up towards shin) in the leg, the achilles tendon becomes tight, the arch of the foot begins flattening, this creates increased distance between the forefoot and heel and increased tension on the plantar fascia. If this added tension on the fascia is not lessened, the body begins to change the soft tissue of the fascia into stronger tissue - bone. Voila! A heel spur develops on the front of the heel bone because this is where the fascia inserts and is its weakest link. A heel spur can not be removed except by surgery, so it is imperative to receive proper treatment at the onset of symptoms to prevent spur formation.

The major medical treatments are surgery and cortisone injections. I don't need to tell you the complications associated with surgery. Cortisone, on the other hand is a steroid. As with any steroid, continued use can lead to high blood sugar, diabetes, osteoporosis, personality changes such as anxiety or depression, and increased chance of illness or infection. Cortisone is also used to suppress the immune system. In fact, it works so well that it is often used following an organ transplant to prevent rejection of the organ. It works by beating down the immune system to the point where it can form an attack against the foreign organ.

Here's what to do if you start to feel the symptoms of plantar fasciitis:

  1. Get adjusted - if your pelvis or low back is out of alignment, you're putting increased stress on the foot, you may not have proper nerve supply to the muscles of the foot and leg, and your walking/running biomechanics can be off. This step is critical because it gets to the cause of the problem and doesn't just mask the symptoms.

  2. Fill a small water bottle (the standard 16.9 oz. size) with water and freeze it. Then, take it out and roll it under the bottom of your foot, front to back. This does 3 things: it breaks up the scar tissue which has formed and the ice reduces inflammation & and decreases the pain.

  3. Take omega-3 oils - Fish or krill oil are nature's greatest natural anti-inflammatory.

  4. Get a gel heel cup - This gives your heel some cushion and raises your heel slightly which takes tension of the plantar fascia. If you know you already have a heel spur (from a previous x-ray), get a U-shaped heel pad which puts a small gap between the center of the heel and your shoe.

  5. Try a natural topical analgesic - 4X/day. Something with menthol works great, like Sombra or Biofreeze.

  6. Stretch the plantar fascia - Do this by bending your toes back towards your shin. First, while sitting, second while standing, if symptoms persist you made need a brace that will do this while you sleep.

  7. Stretch the achilles tendon. Do this by putting your foot in a toes up position against a wall or cabinet then leaning forward until you feel a stretch in your calf. Alternate with your leg straight and with your knee bent - this works both muscles in the calf.