Reviewed by Physician Ng Qing Xiang
Plantar Fasciitis: How to Ease Heel Pain and Stay Active
Published | 6 min read
People from all walks of life are susceptible to plantar fasciitis. Taking steps to prevent or treat the condition can improve mobility and quality of life.
A person’s ability to stay active relies on the proper functioning of various body parts. One such part is our heels, which can be susceptible to a condition called plantar fasciitis. A common cause of heel pain, plantar fasciitis, is the inflammation of a tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot. This tissue connects your heel bone to your toes and is called the plantar fascia.
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, plantar fasciitis relates to kidney qi (vital life force) deficiency and liver and kidney impairment. The primary aim of treatment for the condition is to invigorate blood and qi and regulate the liver and kidney.
Plantar fasciitis causes a stabbing pain that occurs when you take your first steps in the morning. The pain will gradually lessen as you move but may return if you stand for long periods or after sitting.
Here are the different causes of plantar fasciitis and several ways to address aggravating heel pain.
Ways to Address the Common Causes of Plantar Fasciitis
1. Overuse of feet
Prolonged standing, excessive walking, and overly vigorous exercises such as running or climbing can contribute to plantar fasciitis.
Expert tip: Avoid prolonged standing or walking. Short breaks are necessary for those who need to stand or walk for long hours. For instance, after standing for two to three hours, you will need to rest for 10-15 minutes. During rest periods, you can do seated calf raises and light foot stretches.
Being overweight increases pressure on the soles of your feet. It can also trigger an abrasion of the plantar fascia. If your body mass index (BMI) is above 25, it’s advisable to lose weight because it can help reduce the pressure on your feet.
Expert tip: Reducing the consumption of inflammatory foods high in processed sugars and saturated or trans fats can help you lose weight and decrease the risk of plantar fasciitis. Eating foods rich in anti-inflammatory substances such as spinach, tuna, salmon, pumpkin and flax seeds, and avocados can help reduce inflammation.
Other dietary changes include consuming less candy, alcohol, and coffee. The consumption of rooibos tea can also supplement the minerals and trace elements that people with obesity lack when dieting.
3. Abnormal feet structure
Flat- or high-arched feet or short heel tendons are abnormal feet structures. People with flat feet are at a higher risk of putting more weight on the inside of the foot when walking and running. This increases their chances of developing plantar fasciitis.
Expert tip: Avoid carrying heavy objects and use transport trolleys instead for heavy items. You can also try these tips to stretch different parts of your leg.
- To stretch your calf muscles: Stand with both hands pressed against a vertical wall. Bend your left leg towards the front and straighten your right leg behind. Point your toes forward. Then, lean towards the front and keep your heels off the ground to stretch the right calf muscles for 10 seconds. Switch to the other leg and repeat 5 times.
- To stretch your foot: Sit on a stable chair and stretch your legs forward. Use the strength of your heels to tilt your toes upwards. Then press your instep towards the floor for your toes to face down while the heels face up. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
4. Ill-fitting shoes
Long-term use of shoes that don’t fit can cause tightness of the Achilles tendon or the calf muscles. This tightness will limit a person’s ability to contract or bend their feet backward. However, if a person does manage to curve the sole of their foot to the back, they are still likely to suffer a pull on the plantar fascia, triggering fasciitis.
Expert tip: Opting to wear comfortable and light shoes can lower your risk of developing plantar fasciitis. Specifically, look for shoes that have soft soles and good shock absorption capacity. Women can also reduce the frequency of wearing high-heeled shoes to avoid this condition.
Body Massage to Prevent Plantar Fasciitis
You can also do calf massages as part of your daily routine. Begin by applying some lotion to your calf for lubrication. Use both hands to push from your heels through the Chengshan point (BL 57) to the knee and popliteal fossa — a diamond-shaped space behind the knee joint.
This can help to alleviate lymphatic reflux in the lower limbs and dredge the urinary bladder meridian.
Caution: Avoid pushing back and forth on the soles too hard, as it can cause swelling and worsen meridian blockage.
Alternative Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis
According to TCM, the liver governs the tendons, while the kidneys govern the bones. “Old age or weakness in the liver and kidneys can cause bone degeneration and blood and qi deficiencies. It can also lead to a decline in motor function,” says physician Ooi.
Acupuncture can be effective in treating plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia sits within the region where the urinary bladder meridian passes. It starts from the back of the head and runs down the back, gastrocnemius muscles, and soles of the feet. Pain in the plantar fascia can indicate a problem with the fascia to which this meridian belongs.
Treatments like compression, scraping, rolling, and patching can also be beneficial for relieving the discomfort associated with plantar fasciitis. Placing a compress on an affected area can relax the muscles, promote blood circulation, and relieve pain. Scraping involves massaging along the urinary bladder meridian to achieve soft and relaxed muscles.
Rolling requires using a rolling pin or wine bottle to soften fibrous tissue. Patching is the application of medicine on the affected area to remove blood stasis and relieve pain.
Physical therapy, which involves exercises to stretch the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon and strengthen lower leg muscles, can help relieve the pain. Applying ice to the affected part and resting also plays an essential role in recovery.
Plantar fasciitis is a common problem that you might experience in your lifetime. Take comfort in knowing that certain changes can prevent or address the condition and improve your ability to perform daily activities without a hitch. However, a foot problem can be a serious condition for people with diabetes. Consult your doctor immediately if you have diabetes and are experiencing some of the plantar fasciitis symptoms.
- American Family Physician. 2019. Plantar Fasciitis. [Accessed 1 November 2021]
- Spectrum Foot Clinics. 2018. How your diet affects plantar fasciitis. [Accessed 1 November 2021]
- Mayo Clinic. 2019. Plantar fasciitis. [Accessed 1 November 2021]
- Active.com. Plantar fasciitis prevention tips. [Accessed 1 November 2021]
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