Plantar fasciitis is one of those injuries that many people have never heard of until they experience it themselves, only to discover there are many other sufferers out there.
What is plantar fasciitis and what does it have to do with the upcoming holidays?
Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia on the underside of the foot, because of overstretching or overuse. It presents as pain in the arch and or heel for the foot and is often more painful first thing in the morning. It can be very painful with walking first thing in the morning and often eases off throughout the day as the fascia stretches over time. It can then start to get more painful again at the end of the day.
It can be caused by a change in impact volume such as loading up the foot too quickly playing sports that put stress on the heel bone, such as running; or because of over pronation of the foot or simply being middle-aged and getting older.
Plantar fasciitis tends to be more common with ageing as muscles supporting the arch of the foot become weaker, putting stress on the plantar fascia.
It can also become a problem when people change to less supportive shoes – such as in the summer holidays and do a lot of walking on the beach.
All these things can be triggers for plantar fasciitis.
So what goes wrong and why does this happen?
‘Plantar’ refers to the sole of your foot, and ‘fascia’ is the name for the thick tissue that maintains the arch.
When the foot is given more load than it can tolerate, the fascia becomes overloaded. This may be from increasing walking or running volume too quickly, a change in footwear to less supportive shoes, an increase in weight, or starting a new activity. The fascia becomes inflamed and painful. Overnight when the foot is resting the fascial tissue tightens up and the inflammation builds up. You get up in the morning and the pain can be excruciating. As you get moving the tissue loosens and the pain subsides.
Often plantar fasciitis can take a long time to settle down. Once it has set in, the tissue becomes very sensitive to overload from weight bearing, so even lesser impact activities stir it up. Treatment can be a balancing act – a fine line between doing too much but enough to keep progressing.
Here are a few tips that will help injury proof yourself:
- Keeping your feet, ankles and calves strong, maintaining a healthy weight and engaging in some impact activity consistently in your life is a great start.
If you wish to start an exercise program – even a walking program, start gradually. This is different for everyone, but the general rule is to make your first few sessions about 70-80% of your maximum capacity.
Have a day of rest between days of increased activity and use the 10% rule (increase load or volume by no more than 10% each week).
- Ensure you have well-fitting shoes that are no more than 12 months old if you use them regularly.
- Try these 3 exercises to keep your fascia supple and your calves strong:
- Stand an arm’s length from a wall.
- Place your right foot behind your left.
- Slowly and gently bend your left leg forward.
- Keep your right knee straight and your right heel on the ground.
- Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side.
Plantar fascia stretch:
- Stand up straight facing a wall.
- Place the toes of your affected leg on the wall.
- Keep your heel on the floor.
- Keep your knee straight and bring your hips towards the wall.
- You should feel a stretch down the back of your calf.
- Hold this position for 20- 30 seconds.
- Start in a standing position with your feet at hips-width apart.
- Keeping your knees straight, lift both heels and rise on to your toes.
- Return to the starting position, controlling the movement as you lower your heels to the ground.
Hope this helps, Deb
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