It may seem like a double edged sword: fulfilling number one on the New Year’s resolution list, “Lose weight and exercise more”, cut to heal, foot, and joint pain. It is actually a blessing to work yourself toward health and fitness pain free. Most people complain of joint and back pain from the high impact of exercising (namely running or other compounding sports), or muscle soreness from pushing through a tough workout or a lack of quality stretching. People hang motivational posters of muscular athletes drenched in sweat with sayings such as, “It will hurt, take time, require dedication, willpower, sacrifice . . . but it will be worth it.” Look at the end of the article for a great motivational photo example. But with pain in play, many people put their New Year’s resolutions to test. Is this why the majority of people who declare their new year’s resolution and goals on the 1st of the year later admit failing to reach them before the year is over?
As a marathon runner of 15 marathons, and 7 half marathons, I have had my trial and error of both brutal pain and inspiring gain. Some seasons I would push myself through 70-80 mile weeks and sometimes I prepared for races by maintaining an easy but solid 35 mile per week runs. I did suffer a few times with Plantar fasciitis, where I put too much strain on my plantar (not spending the quality time to stretch after my runs, changing into a new shoe that features bare-foot running or putting too many miles on the unforgiving pavement). The pain would augment into such greatness that I had to hang my running shoes for months at a time and opt for low/no impact pre-core and elliptical machines. As any runner will tell you. Non-impact machines are not a replacement for running. Even though it is body movement, for me, it just wasn’t the same. I wanted to dedicate this article for people who are on their feet a lot, for athletes that develop foot pain and for runners who have suddenly found themselves limping instead of striding on the treadmill or around the park because of the good intention of working out, getting healthier and moving their bodies. This article will get down to the knitty gritty of what exactly plantar fasciitis is and how to go about getting back onto the running/jogging/walking path again.
What exactly is plantar fasciitis? Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot. This tissue is called the plantar fascia, and it connects the heel bone to the toes and creates the arch of the foot. It is actually one of the most common causes of heel pain.
How do you know you have plantar fasciitis?
I can describe my own plantar fasciitis symptoms as tender to the touch on and around the heel, and tiny needles stabbing the heel area. Greater pain may be present in the morning (right when you step out of bed) and may dissipate as your foot and body warms up, with more body movement). The pain, however, may return after long periods of standing, after getting up from a seated position or returning to exercising. The most common complaint is pain and stiffness in the bottom of the heel. The heel pain may be dull or sharp. The bottom of the foot may also ache or burn. (Photo Credit: Shoe Depot)
Highest at risk for plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is most common in runners, as well as for people who are overweight, women who are pregnant and those who wear shoes with inadequate support.
Under normal circumstances, your plantar fascia acts like a shock-absorbing bowstring, supporting the arch in your foot. If tension on that bowstring becomes too great, it can create small tears in the fascia. Repetitive stretching and tearing can cause the fascia to become irritated or inflamed.
The Mayo Clinic has a list of factors that may increase your risk of developing plantar fasciitis including:
Age. Plantar fasciitis is most common between the ages of 40 and 60.
Sex. Women are more likely than are men to develop plantar fasciitis.
Certain types of exercise. Activities that place a lot of stress on your heel and attached tissue — such as long-distance running, ballet dancing and dance aerobics — can contribute to an earlier onset of plantar fasciitis.
Faulty foot mechanics. Being flat-footed, having a high arch or even having an abnormal pattern of walking can adversely affect the way weight is distributed when you’re standing and put added stress on the plantar fascia.
Obesity. Excess pounds put extra stress on your plantar fascia.
Occupations that keep you on your feet. Factory workers, teachers and others who spend most of their work hours walking or standing on hard surfaces can damage their plantar fascia.
Improper shoes. Avoid loose, thin-soled shoes, as well as shoes without enough arch support or flexible padding to absorb shock. If you regularly wear high heels, your Achilles tendon — which is attached to your heel — can contract and shorten, causing strain on the tissue around your heel.
You have plantar fasciitis. Now what? & Useful Remedies
Typical western medicine healthcare provider/clinic will usually recommend:
An X-ray(s) to be taken to rule out other problems
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) to reduce pain and inflammation
Steroid shots or injections into the heel
Night splints to wear while sleeping to stretch the foot
Heel and foot stretching exercises
Resting as much as possible for at least a week
Wearing shoes with good support and cushions
Wearing a boot cast, which looks like a ski boot, for 3-6 weeks. It can be removed for bathing.
Appling cold to the painful area can reduce pain and swelling. Do this at least twice a day for 10 – 15 minutes, more often in the first couple of days. Try King Brand Cold Cure: http://www.kingbrand.com/Plantar_Fasciitis_Treatment.php?REF=Z.Plantar.Fasciitis.Combos.
Aside from not running and resting the foot/feet, incorporating a daily yoga routine and focusing much attention on downward facing dog. Heel and foot stretching exercises.
Try wearing a heel cup, felt pads in the heel area, or shoe inserts.
Use night splints to stretch the injured fascia and allow it to heal. I purchased a Strassburg sock and wear it continuously at nights during my sleep when the pain was present, until the pain curtails. You can review the sock here: http://www.thesock.com/.
Custom-made shoe inserts (orthotics)
A nutritional approach to healing plantar fasciitis
Livestrong suggests to people trying to heal from plantar fasciitis to reduce the inflammation and swelling throughout the body by consuming foods rich in essential fatty acids, such as herring, mackerel, salmon and sardines. Other beneficial foods for this health problem may include papaya, pineapple, spinach, blueberries and strawberries. This is based on a certified nutritional consultant, Phyllis A. Balch, author of “Prescription for Nutritional Healing,” who believes that these foods will help the body heal from inflamed and overworked areas of the body.
Also recommended by Livestrong is nutritionist and biologist, George Mateljan’s book, “The World’s Healthiest Foods,” which states that sardines are one of the most concentrated sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are among the most potent anti-inflammatory agents and have long been used in treating a variety of inflammatory conditions. Sardines are also a rich source of vitamin B12, selenium, vitamin D and protein.
Good luck with the continuations of the New Year’s Goals. Listen to your body and honor what it is trying to tell you. Exercise smart, rest well and take motivational photos seriously. . . only half of the time.
Photo Credit: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/fitness%20quotes