Something's Afoot: Plantar Fasciitis 101

Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the fibrous tissue (often called plantar fascia) that runs along the bottom surface of your foot — from your heel to the base of your toes. The longer the inflammation lasts, the more likely that the lining of the foot will also be torn away. The structures that develop when that happens are known as a heel spur or bone bruise, which is as wide as the heel bone. Technically, there is a difference between the two conditions, but plantar fasciitis and heels spurs are often used interchangeably.

How It Occurs

There are only theories on how Plantar Fasciitis develops and it can materialize in various situations, but the consensus of opinion is that a cumulative overload on the feet causes microtears and degeneration of the plantar fascia tissue. Some theories include:
1. Overuse following a change in training methods is thought to be a common contributing pattern among athletes.
2. There is limited evidence that making quick turns, which places additional stress on the foot, can result in plantar fasciitis.
3. Tight calf muscles cause a lack of flexibility, which in turn, may also lead to the condition.
4. Being flat-footed or having an abnormal walking pattern may distribute the weight in a manner that makes a person more susceptible to tiny muscle tears and inflamed plantar fascia tissue.
5. Other contributing factors may include excessive foot pronation (ankle rolling inward), shoes worn at the heel, and running on uphill surfaces.

Treatment Options

1. Tennis Ball Arch Rolls
2. Massage Stick/Tennis Ball Lower Leg (self-massage to the lower leg, focusing on the inside of the shin and deep in the calf)
3. Seated Toe Flexion and Extension Stretch (seated with leg crossed in both plantar flexion and dorsiflexion manually take the toes and stretch them into flexion and extension)
4. Standing Ankle Dorsiflexion Stretch (for neutral and internal rotation; traditional calf stretch while maintaining a good arch position with foot straight ahead and foot turned in with hips square to the wall; often people will turn their feet out and not feel much of a stretch)
5. Eccentric Calf Raises (start with two-feet calf raise maintaining a neutral foot position; raising up over 1st/2nd toe, then shift weight to one foot and slowly lower down. Hold on to the edge of a counter or a bar or support; two sets of 10)
6. Intrinsic Towel Crunches in Plantar Flexion (seated, start with the ankle in front of your body with ankle plantar flexed on top of a towel; use toes to crunch up towel; two sets of 25)
7. Intrinsic Toe Toy Pick Up (use toes to grasp and pick up golf tees or marbles from one pile to another; see how many you can move in five minutes)

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