OK, plantar fasciitis is a big word.
Most diagnoses are. That's because they're made in Latin. And in Latin, plantar fasciitis means: the bottom of the foot (plantar) is inflamed (-itis).
In English it means "Holy smokes does it hurt when I first get out of bed in the morning! It feels like an ice pick poking me in the heel! Ouch!"
or something like that . . .
Unfortunately, plantar fasciitis, or 'heel spurs', as some people call it, is becoming more and more common, due to the fact that we walk around almost continually on hard flat surfaces, and wear shoes designed for fashion rather than comfort.
But what exactly is plantar fasciitis? And what's the best way to treat it?
Your Plantar Fascia is a piece of webbing on the bottom of your foot, beneath the skin, that extends from the toes all the way back to the heel. Its purpose is to literally put the 'spring in your step'. By spanning the arch of the foot, the plantar fascia maintains the curvature of that arch, much like a bungie cord, or the string on a bow-and-arrow.
So when you take a step, your weight comes down on the floor, the bottom of your foot flattens out, causing the fascia to stretch.
As your weight transfers over to the other leg, the fascia springs back, and launches your foot off of the surface you are walking on, propelling you forward to paths untravelled and sights unseen- broad new horizons and the journey and the thing and the stuff ...
My point is ... its a drag when it gets injured.
The Birth of a Heel Spur.
If, let's say, the fascia gets over-stretched ... which can happen quite easily given our culture's tendency to be overweight, combined with our propensity towards hard flat surfaces like concrete...
... What happens is, we're constantly putting a lot of weight on a 'spring' (i.e. the fascia), forcing it to conform to almost perfectly flat surfaces. It can only stretch so far and for so long.
Eventually, the fascia starts to pull away from its attachment site at the heel of your foot (your calcaneus bone). And boy does that hurt ...! Ouch.
But it doesn't happen all at once. Not usually, anyway. Usually what happens is: you begin to notice pain in the bottom of your heel the first thing in the morning. But after a couple of minutes on your feet, and things start to loosen up. Over a period of time, it lets up less-and-less.
Eventually you hobble into your friendly neighborhood's doctor's off ce and say "Hey, Doc ... the bottom of my feet hurt really bad when I put any weight on them ... and they seem all inflamed ..." and you are diagnosed with plantar fasciitis. (Instant Replay here: You said "Hey Doc, the bottom of my feet are inflamed." And they answered back, in Latin, "That's because the bottom of your foot is inflamed ...!")
I digress. My point is, only a doctor of the M.D variety can make a diagnosis, so please don't use this article to diagnose yourself, ok? I'm just telling you what plantar fasciitis feels like ...
When the fascia starts to pull away from the heel bone, the tear causes pain ... but. worse than that is that it creates a condition for the formation of a heel spur. A heel spur occurs when the calcaneus bone begins to grow out towards the fascia trying to 'fill the gap', as it were. But not all plantar fasciitis is caused by heel spurs. And that's important to remember. A lot can be done before it gets to that point.
Oh Those Crazy Gastrocs!
Your calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) play an important part in treating plantar fasciitis because ... well ... most the time, that's where the trouble begins.
Your calf muscle attaches to your heel bone, but doesn't stop there. The tendon (what we often call the Achilles tendon ) wraps around underneath and becomes the plantar fascia.
The calf muscle's connected to the ... heel bone, and the heel bone's connected to the ... fascia ... and the ... well ... you get the idea.
If your calf muscles are too tight, they will put extra tension on the bottom of the heel, as well as on the whole plantar fascia, making it tighter than it was designed to be. Hence the tearing, hence the "ouch!"
So, let the calf lead the way...
When I work on people with plantar fasciitis, I don't just loosen up the bottom of the foot. I start on the calves. Get them to release and you're halfway there.
Then I break down the scar tissue that's been building up on the bottom of the heel, as well as in the 'webbing', or the fascia itself. I've found that within three-to-five sessions, noticeable improvement occurs. Unless, of course, its an actual heel spur, in which case ... 'off you go to the podiatrist' ...
But assuming its not an actual heel spur... and assuming you don't continue to reinjure it, you should see significant results rather quickly. So, situation desperate, not hopeless!