Plantar fasciitis, also known as plantar heel pain syndrome (PHPS), is a common problem that can really give you a lot of pain on the sole of your foot, making it hard to walk and even put weight on your feet.
It’s the most common cause of heel pain, and it happens when your plantar fascia – the flat band of tissue connecting your heel bone to your toes - gets weak or inflamed, making your heel or the bottom of your foot hurt to walk on. Plantar fasciitis is most common in middle aged people, and often seen in younger people who are on their feet a lot. Some people find that the pain is worse when they wake up and it eases during the day as they walk on the affected foot.
It can be a difficult to treat the problem, doctors often try steroid injections to no avail, but experts are coming around to the idea that massage therapy and stretching can be more effective at treating the problem than steroid injections or possible surgery.
Studies into massage therapy for plantar fasciitis
Research carried out at an outpatient physical therapy clinic in Israel showed that massage was a promising treatment for plantar fasciitis. The researchers studied 69 people with the condition who had been referred to them by an orthopaedic surgeon. One group was given ultrasound treatment combined with stretches and the other was treated with massage therapy and stretches.
All the patients were offered eight treatments over six weeks, although only 51 people completed the whole study. When the massage intervention was compared to ultrasound (which isn’t thought to be that effective in treating PHPS anyway) the researchers found that deep tissue massage on the calf muscles combined with stretching exercises was more likely improve the symptoms than a combination of ultrasound and stretching.
Ten minutes of deep pressure massage to the posterior calf was all it took to see a difference in the patients in the study – that’s easy to fit into a massage session, so if you’ve been suffering with it, don’t suffer in silence, speak to your therapist and ask her to add in some deep tissue massage to your regular routine.
Plantar fasciitis stretches
To soothe the condition in the long term you’ll need to stretch the plantar fascia – so try pulling up on your foot and toes, then holding the stretch for about 30 seconds. Repeat this stretch five times and do the routine three times a day if you can.
Calf muscle stretching has also been shown to be effective in managing PHPS - try a standing calf stretch with your affected foot furthest from the wall and one foot in front of the other. Lean forward keeping your heels on the floor until you feel the stretch in the back of your calf and Achilles tendon. Repeat five times, three times a day.