Quick anatomy lesson, the body is given structure by the skeleton, the bones are held together by ligaments, muscles surround the joints and contract to move them and those muscles are connected to the bones by tendons. Plantar fascia is the connective tissue that supports the arch of the foot and runs from the tuberosity of the calcaneus bone to the heads of the metatarsal bones. In layman’s terms, from the heel to approximately the ball of you foot on the bottom side. Two main parts of the body that are famous for fascia are the IT band and the fascia on the bottom of your feet. Well let me tell you something, the fascia on the bottom of my feet HURTS! If I had to jump out of bed and run from the demons that just jumped out of my closet, the demons would get me since I would most likely fall on the floor and barely be able to hobble away.
Why do my feet hurt you might ask. What is causing it and what are you doing about it? I am suffering from plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the fascia on the plantar side (bottom) of the foot. The plantar fascia supports the arch of the foot during any weight bearing exercises by acting as a tie-rod on the bottom of the foot. When the toes are dorsiflexed or pulled back during walking or running the plantar fascia becomes tight and shortens the foot by increasing the longitudinal arch in the foot (the arch that goes from your heel to the ball of your foot). This reaction behaves like a spring and acts to conserve energy when walking or running.
According to Wikipedia,“Treatment options for plantar fasciitis include rest, massage therapy, stretching, night splints, motion control running shoes, physical therapy, Cold therapy, orthotics, anti-inflammatory medications, injection of corticosteroids and surgery in refractory cases.”
For those of you who know mw how often am I going to rest? I would love to be able to get a massage on a regular basis, I highly doubt I would sleep in a splint, motion control shoes seem a bit excessive, physical therapy I would do and medications, injections and surgery just scare the living crap out of me. So what to do? In the interest of prolonging not only my training career but also my dancing career I need to do something right?
Let’s start with something simple. I have to be sure that every day before I wake up I don’t even think about putting weight on my feet before moving them. That means, roll my ankles in circles, flex my feet as hard as I can to stretch the fascia and generally “wake up” my feet before they take my weight. Second, I try to be sure to strengthen the muscles in my feet so the plantar fascia is not the only thing supporting the arches. This includes scrunching a towel under my toes and creating an arch in my foot with the toes and heel still in the ground. Basically I have to re-train my feet to create an arch where I usually do not have one. I have become very good friends with my “footsie roller” that was given to me when I was in high school when I was dancing a lot of ballet. It gives me a great massage on the plantar side (bottom) of my feet and is easy enough to toss in my purse and carry around every where. After a long day on my feet dancing, running or just standing around I need to be sure to put my feet and ankles in an ice bath. Remember, plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the plantar fascia and cold therapy is used to reduce inflammation.
Interestingly enough, once I warm up my feet and ankles and are running, dancing or standing consistently the pain goes away. It does however, come back after a prolonged period of sitting or laying down with no weight bearing on my feet. Sometimes I try to determine what it is that i have been doing that is causing this problem. Is it my running? Is it my dancing? Is it just my body aging and the result of years of unnatural movement when I jump, run and dance? It’s probably a combination of everything and has taught me an oh so valuable lesson. Warm up properly, watch your movements when you move and be sure to take care of yourself when all of the movement is over. You only have one body and that body is priceless. Nothing can replace a healthy body that performs at it’s optimal level over the years and I want to watch mine grow gracefully and maintain as much performance as it can.