I know plantar fasciitis like the back of my hand.
As a former nurse who encountered it on a regular basis, I know how uncomfortable it is. The fact that it’s a common foot disorder is just one proof that our feet are the most overused parts of our body, yet often taken for granted.
For starters, the plantar fascia is a band of connective tissue that goes from the heel to the ball of the feet. It passes through the arch, giving it its unique curved shape with the help of other supporting structures such as ligaments and muscles.
This is also the reason why the arch doesn’t easily collapse despite our body weight pushing it downward.
However, when these supporting structures suffer from fatigue, the plantar fascia carries the burden and degenerates as a result. The inflammation, commonly known as plantar fasciitis, causes pain in the heel and foot arch.
If not treated, plantar fasciitis can affect the way you walk and render you too weak to do the activities you once enjoyed. But there’s hope….
What Is Plantar Fasciitis? – Symptoms And Causes.
Plantar fasciitis (plan-ter fash-ee-eye-tiss) is an overuse injury.
It happens when the muscles supporting the foot arch suffer from fatigue, leaving the plantar fascia–a band of tissue that isn’t supposed to carry our body weight–burdened beyond its capacity.
It’s also called jogger’s heel because it commonly affects runners, especially those who increase the intensity of their workout too fast. Approximately 30-70% of runners are injured every year, 10% of which are plantar fasciitis cases.
Also at great risk are people or professionals who are always on their feet like cashiers, teachers, nurses, and hikers. Your likelihood of suffering from this strain injury also increases if you’re overweight, female and menopause, have flat feet, very high arches, and tight calf muscles.
According to Jon Clemens, a San Diego-based coach with master’s in exercise physiology, another common yet overlooked cause of plantar fasciitis is the muscular imbalance in the hips. This condition results in an imbalance walk that puts more stress on one leg as well as the plantar fascia connected to it.
Notable symptom of plantar fasciitis is heel or arch pain when you try to stand up in the morning or after sitting for a while. For others, the pain usually subsides after they take a rest or do some stretching.
Most, however, may suffer from chronic pain and therefore need serious medical attention.
How To Treat Plantar Fasciitis.
In most cases, plantar fasciitis lasts up to 6 months, during which the doctor uses a more conservative approach to address the symptoms.
Using simple physical examination to diagnose the disease, the doctor will then suggest simple stretching exercises (see illustration below), use of splint or over-the-counter arch supports and shock wave therapy, among others.
Your doctor may also prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen to alleviate the pain. When all else fails, doctors usually resort to more radical options like cortisone injection and surgery, both of which entail risks.
Surgery, if done less meticulously, may result to nerve damage, flat feet and pain that would require more follow-up surgeries. In addition to that, surgery like this can cost up to $10,000 (or more if it’s not covered by your insurance).
Consider all your options first before resorting to surgery. Spend the first 6 to 12 months talking to specialists and trying all non-surgical treatments for plantar fasciitis.
The good news is there are, indeed, a lot of ways to lessen the pain even without the use of medications.
One of these is what they call ice massage. Using a frozen water bottle or golf ball, you can apply pressure on the arch and other affected areas of the feet. This is a good way to stretch tight tissues and self-massage your feet without spending a dime on a therapist.
If you have money to spare, however, you can either pay a massage therapist or buy the less expensive foot massagers.
A massage therapist can use different techniques and even add hydrotherapy to decrease inflammation on your feet. The foot massagers, meanwhile, have heat and kneading functions that are proven to lessen pain and relieve muscle tension.
Take note, however, that these methods are only temporary relief to plantar fasciitis and don’t effectively address the root cause. Hence, massage should always work in conjunction with other traditional treatments to achieve the best results.
How To Choose The Best Foot Massager for Plantar Fasciitis.
We’ve already outlined the criteria to help you choose the best foot massager. However, there are few more factors you have to consider when buying specifically to manage plantar fasciitis.
Most foot massagers are designed for the general population, so you should ask the following questions to ensure you end up buying something that will properly address your needs:
What areas of the feet does it massage?
Since plantar fasciitis affect the heel and arch of the foot, you should look for a massager that effectively hit these areas.
Some shiatsu foot massagers like Belmint’s promise to massage all of the foot, but barely touch the arch and heel in reality.
Choose products that offer powerful kneading massage to the target areas. Read verified customer reviews on Amazon to ensure that the product delivers its promise and doesn’t look good only on paper.
There are also more expensive foot massagers–like the Medi-Rub 2000 Plus—that are equipped with an “arch bar” where you can curl your toes or foot arch and apply pressure on them.
Plantar fasciitis is sometimes caused by tight calf muscles so a product that massages both the feet and legs can be a better choice. The MedMassager MMF06 11, for instance, offers oscillation that reaches up to your knees, making it an ideal choice for people suffering from plantar fasciitis as well as neuropathy.
Also Read: Best Foot Massager for Diabetics
What is the intensity of the massage?
“Intense” is subjective; what is intense to you may be mild for somebody else. For this reason, it’s safer to choose a foot massager that has different intensity levels you can choose from.
Take note that there are foot massagers that can be too intense even at the lowest setting. If you have overly sensitive feet or suffering from severe arthritis, stay away from electric foot massagers and choose those wooden rollers like Theraflow’s instead.
How long is the massage?
The root cause of plantar fasciitis is fatigue or overuse of the feet muscles. Therefore, regardless if you’re doing self-massage or using a foot massager, it is best to limit the time to 15 minutes.
There are electric foot massagers with built-in timers, which means the device automatically shuts off after a period of time, say 15 minutes.
It can be a bit annoying especially if you want a longer session, but this is a safety feature that not only protects your feet but also prevents the machine from overheating.