Plantar fasciitis is a very common ailment of the foot caused by repetitive strain injury due to sports like long-distance running, walking, hiking, and soccer. Even activities like dancing or occupational hazards like standing for a long time on a hard surface could cause plantar fasciitis. You are also more likely to get plantar fasciitis if you have flat feet or high arches, are overweight, or wear shoes that don’t provide proper support.1 Elderly women are also more likely victims.
[pullquote]While both heel spur and plantar fasciitis cause pain in the heel, the former is caused by a bone growth, while the latter is caused by the inflammation of tissue. However, if not treated in time, plantar fasciitis may lead to heel spur.[/pullquote]
The plantar fascia is a flexible band of tissue under your sole. It connects the bones of the toes with the heel bone and forms the arch of your foot. Wear and tear over time or some kind of damage can inflame the plantar fascia and cause pain, stiffness, or a burning sensation at the bottom of your foot. The pain is generally worse in the morning or when you use your foot after a period of rest.
While plantar fasciitis is usually not severe, it can restrict your movement. It can also lead to heel spur, a calcium deposit on the heel bone, which might require surgery. So it’s essential to start treatment soon after diagnosis. Here are some natural remedies that you can try to reduce the pain and inflammation associated with plantar fasciitis.
1. Get Some Rest And Apply Ice
[pullquote]You could also soak the foot in a vinegar bath or massage the foot with aloe vera or warm mustard oil to improve blood circulation and provide temporary relief.[/pullquote]
It’s important to let your affected foot get some rest – try not to walk long distances or stand for too long. Do keep in mind though that some exercises that stretch your plantar fascia can be helpful. You could also hold an ice pack to the affected area. Doing this a couple of times a day for 10 or 15 minutes can help with the pain.2
2. Get The Right Shoes
[pullquote]Don’t walk barefoot on hard surfaces and don’t wear sports shoes that have worn out with use.[/pullquote]
Shoes that don’t provide the necessary support can strain your plantar fascia. The best thing for your foot would be shoes that can be laced and have moderate or low heels which support and cushion your heels and arches. Try not to wear high heels or flats. If you regularly take part in any physical activity that places extra strain on your feet (for example, running), remember to choose the right pair of shoes and then change them after every 350 miles.
You could also try orthoses, which are insoles that go inside your shoe. They support your foot and help your heel get better. Long-term use may be required if your pain tends to recur.3
3. Use Splints And Straps
Night splints, which keep your toes pointing up while you sleep, can be worn to quicken recovery. They make sure that the tissue inside the heel is not squeezed and help to stretch your Achilles tendon and plantar fascia. You could also strap your heels with a sports strapping tape to relieve pressure.4
4. Do Strengthening And Stretching Exercises
Making sure your ankle, Achilles tendon, and calf muscles are flexible can prevent plantar fasciitis. Some simple stretching exercises can help you do this. Start by stretching your plantar fascia first thing in the morning before you get out of bed.
Loop a towel around your foot and pull your toes toward you, without bending your knees. Repeat thrice for each foot.
A wall stretch can strengthen the calf muscles. Standing with your feet together, put your palms against a wall. Then take a big step forward, keeping a substantial gap between your front and back legs. Shift your weight on the front leg and bend at the knee. The back leg should be straight and both heels should be firmly planted on the ground. Lean forward into the wall, hold for 30 seconds, and feel the stretch on the back of the rear leg. Return to neutral and then repeat on the other side. Do this 3 reps twice a day.5
Slant Board Stretch
Stand on a slanting board, allowing your calves to get a good stretch.6
Sit on a chair, your feet on the ground, with your heels touching and toes pointing in opposite directions. Now raise your toes, making sure your heel stays on the ground. You should be able to feel your Achilles tendon and calf muscles tighten as you do this. Repeat this 10 times, and do it 5–6 times a day.
Roll the arch of your foot over a round object (for instance, a tennis ball, rolling pin, or drink can) while sitting down. Repeat twice a day. Work both your legs even if you’re experiencing pain in only one foot for the added benefit of improving balance and stability.7
5. Try Acupuncture
The ancient Chinese medical system of acupuncture can help you with fascia pain. As one study showed, treatment over 4 weeks involving stimulating classical acupoints known as Taixi, Kunlun, and Sanyinjiao manually with needles provided significant pain relief.
It was also found that some people who did not respond well to this alone could be helped by additional treatment where trigger points in the gastro-soleus and plantar fascia were also stimulated.8
6. Try Ayurveda
Plantar fasciitis (known as vatakantaka in ayurveda) is treated using a combination of oral medication and topical application of herbal formulations in ayurveda.
According to research, a treatment plan which involved taking eranda taila (castor oil) and shunti kashaya (a reduction of dry ginger powder in water) orally on an empty stomach in the morning and applying a warm paste of kolakulatthadi churna (a powder containing horse gram, Indian date, and other beneficial plants) to the affected heel and covering it with eranda (castor) leaves for 4 hours was helpful.
[pullquote]Eating anti-inflammatory foods like ginger, garlic, turmeric, berries, and leafy greens can help in the long run.[/pullquote]
It was found to relieve pain and swelling completely within 15 days in 70% of the patients studied. Some diet control – specifically, avoiding sweets, peas, potatoes, curd, and fried food – was part of the treatment plan.9
Besides this, studies indicate that turmeric, white willow bark, maritime pine bark, green tea, frankincense, cat’s claw, and chili pepper can relieve pain. Interestingly, these herbs have been used for centuries to lower inflammation and relieve pain. You could get the powdered version of any of the above and mix it with water or milk before consuming it. Alternatively, you could try making a foot soak with any of the above ingredients. If you notice any allergic symptoms after consumption, discontinue use and consult a professional.10
7. See An Osteopath
Osteopathy, a form of manual therapy which addresses health issues by working on your muscles and joints, can be used to treat plantar fasciitis. Specifically, the counterstrain procedure has been found to be helpful.
During the counterstrain procedure, the osteopath identifies a “tender point” where pain is felt. Then the patient’s body is positioned in such a way that minimal pain is experienced when the tender point is pressed. This position is held for about 90 seconds before being released. In one study, though this treatment was found to bring about a significant reduction in pain immediately, the effect was considerably less after 48 hours. So this might mean you’ll need to repeat the procedure till you recover.11
8. Get A Deep Tissue Massage
[pullquote]If you have open wounds on or around the plantar fascia, osteoporosis, history of blood clots, or have undergone a surgery in the recent past, avoid getting a deep tissue massage.[/pullquote]
True to its name, a deep tissue massage involves the application of pressure on the deeper muscle tissues. In this case, it would include the fascia, Achilles heel, and calf muscles. This massage technique is believed to release muscle tension and ease pain. You might feel soreness before and after the massage but the results are believed to be felt within a couple of days. This could be because deep tissue massages improve the circulation of blood around the concerned area. Be sure to find a professional massage therapist if you choose to go with this remedy.12
9. Maintain A Healthy Weight
The higher your body weight, the more pressure your heels will experience. Hence, reaching and maintaining a healthy body weight is one way of easing the pain in your heels. Exercising might be particularly difficult since standing, walking, or running might be painful. Swimming or cycling are better options. Try to eat clean by replacing processed food with fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition to this, it might do you good to skimp out on the added sugars and unhealthy fats. Aim at having your body mass index (BMI) lie between 18.5 and 24.9 which is considered normal for adults.13 14
|↑1||Plantar fasciitis. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑2||Plantar fasciitis. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑3||Preventing heel pain. National Health Service.|
|↑4, ↑7||Treating heel pain. National Health Service.|
|↑5||Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis. American Academy of Family Physicians.|
|↑6||Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis. American Academy of Family Physicians.|
|↑8||Tillu, A., and S. Gupta. “Effect of acupuncture treatment on heel pain due to plantar fasciitis.” Acupuncture in Medicine 16, no. 2 (1998): 66-68.|
|↑9||Rao, Veena G., and M. S. Nischita. “Ayurvedic management of Vatakantaka (Plantar Fasciitis).” International Journal of Ayurvedic Medicine 4, no. 1 (2013).|
|↑10||Maroon, Joseph C., Jeffrey W. Bost, and Adara Maroon. “Natural anti-inflammatory agents for pain relief.” Surgical neurology international 1 (2010).|
|↑11||Wynne, Marisa M., Janet M. Burns, David C. Eland, Robert R. Conatser, and John N. Howell. “Effect of counterstrain on stretch reflexes, hoffmann reflexes, and clinical outcomes in subjects with plantar fasciitis.” The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association 106, no. 9 (2006): 547-556.|
|↑12||Deep Tissue Massage for Plantar Fasciitis. Pacific College Of Oriental Medicine.|
|↑13||Easing the pain of plantar fasciitis. Harvard Health Publishing.|
|↑14||Is body mass index (BMI) still the best measure of body fat? Harvard Health Publishing.|