There is a thick connective tissue that runs the entire length of the bottom of the human foot. It starts on the five toes and extends to the bottom of the heel. This tissue is known as the plantar fascia and acts as a shock absorber that supports the arch in the foot. While running, runners land on the heels of the feet and then raise themselves on the toes before shifting the weight onto the other foot. This causes the plantar fascia to come under strain and when the strain becomes too much, the plantar fascia is likely to tear. Even if there is no tearing the strain can be felt and is an indication of plantar fasciitis, also known as plantar heel syndrome (PHPS). Mountain climbers, aerobics practitioners, and hikers can also become afflicted by plantar fasciitis due to constant strain on the plantar fascia during their exertions.
Causes of Plantar Fascilitis
Plantar fasciitis can also be caused by using the wrong footwear, such as ballet flats and flip-flops or even walking barefoot. A sudden increase in running distance, working out, or walking or standing on hard surfaces can also lead to plantar fasciitis. Individuals who are overweight are at greater risk for developing this condition. Plantar fasciitis is most common for individuals between the ages of 40 and 60.
Simple Methods of Relieving Plantar Fasciitis
A great strategy for avoiding this condition is by stretching the lower legs, calves, ankles, and feet regularly. However, once plantar fasciitis makes itself known, one of the best ways to start treatment is to desist from the activity that is causing the pain— be it running, jogging, cycling, climbing, dancing, or aerobics. The longer the pain is ignored, the longer it will take to heal. Safe exercise options for those recovering from plantar fasciitis can include swimming, rowing, hand cycling, battle ropes, weight lifting for the upper body, or Pilates.
Footwear should be such that it gives more support even though it may be stiffer. A few options could be inserting orthotics to provide arch support. The added arch support will help to reduce the pain and afford some relief. Icing the area for about a quarter of an hour every day can also help. For quick pain relief, over-the-counter ibuprofen or naproxen are effective options. Massage of the calf and Achilles heel can also reduce pain. Once the initial recovery is made, patients should consider a more aggressive form of treatment. This could include taping and deep tissue massage.
The Potential of Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage is a technique that concentrates on the deeper muscle tissues by applying deep finger pressure on the fascia, Achilles heel, and calf muscles through slow strokes. The muscle fibers can be followed or pressure can be applied across tendons. Deep tissue massage can help to release the muscle tension, break scar tissue, and lead to its elimination. It concentrates on specific areas, leading to soreness before and after the massage, yet the results are definite and can be felt within just a couple of days.
Deep tissue massage loosens the muscle tissues, remove muscle toxins, and ensure proper circulation of blood and oxygen which had been affected by plantar fasciitis. Following the treatment, it is advisable to drink a lot of water to help remove the toxins from the body. Deep tissue massage is not recommended, however, if there are any open wounds on the plantar fascia or in nearby areas. It has to be avoided if surgery has taken place and if other conditions like osteoporosis exist. Persons who have a history of blood clots should also not undergo deep massage therapy as these blood clots can be displaced and get to areas where they cause greater problems.
Deep tissue massage works because it physically breaks down the adhesions that are formed by muscle tissues in the muscles caused by over exertion or strain.
Scientific Study Supporting the Benefits of Deep Tissue Massage
An article  published by the Manual Therapy journal in September 2013, titled “Deep massage to posterior calf muscles in combination with neural mobilization exercises as a treatment for heel pain: A pilot randomized clinical trial”, details the effects of deep massage when combined with neural mobilization exercise. The single-blind study involved 69 patients randomized into either the ultrasound group or the deep massage group.
In the study, “. . . therapists massaged the medial and lateral aspects of the posterior calf from both a medial and lateral approach. The pressure was deep enough to generate a pain response and was performed with thumbs or another body part, such as an elbow,” according to Massage Today. The deep massage group also performed calf stretches and a neural mobilization exercise. The authors of the study concluded that the massage group exhibited statistically and clinically significant improvements in function, in contrast to the ultrasound group.
To realize the full benefits of deep tissue massage, it’s important to visit an experienced health practitioner who can accurately identify the foot condition and administer professional treatment.
Be sure to check out Pacific College's integrative health care programs.