Plantar fascitis is pretty common. As such, there are plenty of people suffering without relief as well as others setting themselves up for future pain by being ignorant of the causes, risks and prevention of the condition. Thankfully, I’m here to help!
Plantar fascitis is an inflammation of the fascia (connective tissues) that connects the heel bone to the toes. This tissue acts as support for the arch. Repetitive abuse or tears can lead to chronic inflammation and pain in the heel and arch. There are numerous factors that can increase your risk for this disorder- faulty foot mechanics, abnormal gait or walking patterns, prolonged abuse, improper footwear, distance running, increased age, obesity, and more.
So what can you do to relive this pain?
Western medicine suggests everything from anti-inflammation drugs, steroid injections to surgery. I have an alternative. Release by compression.
Method 1: Releasing the calves
Begin in a seated position and place a strap or belt around the ankles to keep them from rolling outward. Then, carefully come into a kneeling position.
Place a rolled up blanket or yoga mat (the tighter the roll the more effective/intense) in the bend of the knees and with the hands draw the calf flesh straight back toward the heels and slightly outward as you simultaneously bring the buttocks to rest on the heels. If the sit bones do not reach the heels, you may add support under the buttocks, such as a yoga block or blanket. Hold that position for at least 72 seconds or 5-10 deep breaths.* at the end of that time, lift the hips and move the roll farther down the calf toward the heels and repeat the sit process until you reach the area near the Achilles tendon. Once finished with this pattern, remove the roll and rest the buttocks on the heels for hero’s pose for 72 seconds. Then lift the hips to come on to the knees, place the hands to the side of the body on the floor to lower into a seated position and remove the strap from the ankles. Daily practice of this method will relive even the most severe plantar fascitis.
Method 2: Rolling it out
Place a small ball (golf ball or tennis ball or raquet ball- the harder/denser the ball, the more intense the process) on the floor about 6-8 inches from a wall. Stand near the wall for support, bracing yourself with one hand. Place the foot on the ball and shift your weight onto the ball. Think not of stomping down on it or pressing with the foot, but rather keep the foot relaxed and let the weight fall, the foot draping over the ball. Begin with the ball under the big toe mound/ball of the foot and gently roll the ball beneath the foot, focusing on the areas with more tension. Continue this process all the way to the heel and then switch sides.
* if the big toes clash together, place a bit of blanket or rolled up wash cloth between the insides of the feet. If the ankles are strained by weight bearing, place a bit of folded or rolled blanket under the ankles only, perpendicular to the legs. At no point should you feel any sort of sharp pain in the knees or ankles. Discomfort is different from pain. If pain is experienced, swiftly and safely exit the pose and discontinue it’s practice until you can be guided in person by an experienced teacher.
**credit for the first method belongs to my instructor, Cindy Dollar, certified Iyengar yoga teacher and owner of One Center Yoga in Asheville, NC, though beyond that, I cannot adequately attribute the origins.