Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Spurs
Basic information on how plantar faciitis and heel spurs develop and tips on how you can massage them to relive the pain.
Some people talk about getting out of bed in the morning “hitting the ground running.” Others are afraid to get out of bed in the morning because of the pain felt when their feet first hit the ground. For them it takes a few minutes for the pain to subside. They have difficulty walking distances due to the pain they feel step after agonizing step. Sound familiar? If so, there may be a rather simple solution.
The bottom of your foot has several layers of muscle covered by a superficial band of connective tissue attaching the heel bone to the base of the toes. This fascial tissue can become shortened putting a strain on the arches of the foot. When the arches are affected the body weight distribution changes and you walk less efficiently. The numerous joints within the foot and ankle react to these forces with foot pain which translate into ankle, knee and hip pain over time.
A shortened, congested plantar fascia pulls on the attachment to the heel (calcaneus) bone leading to extra calcium deposits at the point of irritation. Reactions of the body to stress on bone tissue is the thickening of the bone and creation of calcium deposits. In the heel the resulting bone enhancement is called a heel spur. The surrounding tissues are often painful to the touch and pressure.
How do you get rid of it?
It sounds simplistic, but changing the tension patterns and movement habits that created the condition in the first place is the way to go. Think back on your daily activities that may be contributing to the development of your pain. Some of the contributing factors we have uncovered over the years are:
Poor fitting shoes
- Too small or too narrow
- Lack of arch support
- Shock absorbency worn out (runners and walkers – change shoes more often)
- Work related – on feet long hours; hard floor surfaces
- Exercise related – Over exercising; hard impact on feet
- Repetive movements – overuse of muscles
- Lack of adequate water intake leads to connective tissue adhesions.
Tight leg muscles
- Lack of soft tissue maintenance using massage techniques
- Lack of basic stretching movements for the legs and feet
Putting a lot of mileage on the leg muscles leads to tension and blood flow reduction.
Take action to change the conditions that may be contributing to the foot stress. Buy new shoes; change the surface you run on; drink more water; massage the muscles to loosen the joints. Make sure you have good arch support for your feet.
By taking these corrective actions the benefits of the massage and other techniques described below will have a better chance of being effective over the long term.
One approach that is easy to incorporate into your daily routine for loosening up the bottom of the foot is to use a ball or other device to roll your foot on. This can be done at work, while surfing the net, while watching television at home. There are also many devices available for purchase that will do the job well. It may be painful at first but consistent use yields the best results.
Self massage or shared massage may be better than a foot roller because you can direct pressure more specifically and mobilize the joints and tissues more efficiently. Besides, having your partner work on you provides opportunity to share some peaceful, “quality” time together so difficult to come by in these hectic times.
This massage approach includes deep pressure with a loose fist, palm of the hand, fingertips or thumbs to the bottom of the foot with the intent of lengthening the tissue and breaking up any gluing or adhesions between the connective tissue fibers. Remember to apply pressure within your pain tolerance since heel spurs can irritate tissue and cause inflammation. Your first goal is to re-establish length to the plantar fascia pulling on the heel. Give it time. Massage the area for short duration (5 – 10 minutes) twice a day if you can. Give the foot a day or two of rest before repeating the massage. The tightness occurred over a months so allow weeks for rehabilitation of the tissue.
The muscles of the calf (gastrocnemius and soleus) which connect to the heel bone by means of the Achilles tendon play an important role in the development of heel spurs and plantarfasciitis. The calf muscles pull up on the back of the heel bone and the plantar fascia attaches to the front of the bottom of the heel bone. Balanced tone between the calf muscles and the muscles and tissues in the bottom of the foot is important to proper movement of the foot and ankle. Over the years we have massaged people with plantarfasciitis and heel spurs with great success. If you have these conditions it is advisable to massage the calf muscles as well as the tissues on the bottom of the foot.
Regular and consistent stretching of the foot and calf muscles after massaging them helps maintain the mobility of the joints, muscles and connective tissues. One of the easiest stretches for the calf muscles is drop the heel below the level of the forefoot/toes while standing on the first step of a staircase or the front stoop of your home. Make sure there is a bannister or hand rail to hold on to for support and balance. Allow for a slow, steady stretch and avoid bouncing your heels up and down. Hold the stretch for a minute or longer to allow the connective tissues to elongate.
A comprehensive instructional video covering self-massage for the thigh, leg and foot is available on this website.
Loosening the structures of the feet and stimulating the reflex areas is where reflexology shines. Performing all of the warm up movements, stimulation techniques and mobilizations allows for total body stress relief. While reflexology is not considered massage in many states, one is manipulating the soft tissues of the entire foot and ankle when performing a general session. The areas affected by plantar fascia tension and heel spurs relate to the low back, pelvis, sciatic nerve and lower digestive tract/colon.
This is a pain-free approach to restoring balance to the boney structures of the foot and ankle which, in turn, will relieve pressure on the arches of the foot. This approach is great for anyone, especially those suffering with severe pain and tenderness or who have contra-indications to receiving massage.
Spiral Synergy movements are always meant to be gentle and reinforce positions for the bones and joints that are pain-free and comfortable. No force is ever applied and no massage is performed.
Gently grasp the bones of the foot and explore the movement allowed with out eliciting pain. Make tiny movements in the direction of comfort and ease of the various tarsal bones that join to the heel bone take pressure off the joints. Gentle compression force applied into the joints while being held in the comfort positions relays nerve signals to the brain. The brain centers respond by relaxing the muscles that affect the joint.
Tender spots in the soft tissue can be painlessly addressed by gently squeezing the soft tissues on the bottom of the foot in such a way as to create a slackening of the tight/sore spot. Hold the gentle squeeze for a minute or so. Gently press into the sore spot after releasing the squeezing force. Notice if there is a change in the discomfort level. Repeat the process once again if you choose to.
The oils we have used for most inflamed tissue injuries such as plantar faciitis are lemongrass (diluted in V6 vegetable oil) and copaiba. In fact, we often layer the two and on occasion blend the two prior to massaging them into the foot. Deep Relief roll-on is great for painful muscles and PanAway also works well for pain and inflammation in muscles and connective tissues. Deep Relief roll-on and Relieve It blend are also great for muscle pain. To assist with lymphatic flow we often use CelLite Magic massage oil sparingly to allow us good contact with the tissue during the massage. We use it liberally when we are done with the massage part and intend to impart the lymphatic effect.
For heel spurs we apply RC blend which is good for affecting calcified tissues according to the Essential Oil Desk Reference by the Higleys. Wintergreen is good to use for bone inflammation, and cypress supports circulation. If there are inflamed tendons involved we use lemongrass diluted with V6 vegetable oil.