The alarm clock sounds, rousing you from a nice cozy state of slumber. Slowly you peel back the covers and turn toward the edge of the bed. You swing your legs down as you press your torso into an upright position.
As your feet hit the floor and you begin to transfer your weight onto your legs … yeeeeoooow! Sharp pain shoots through the bottom of your feet in a way that feels as if you just tore the connective tissue between the toes and the heel. With each hobbling step it recurs, but as you make your way to the bathroom it begins to lessen somewhat. Your pain is diminished over the next several minutes, so that by the time that you hit the shower you feel confident that you can stand on both feet without grasping the towel bar.
Sound familiar? You probably have plantar fasciitis. Plantar is the part of the foot that we often refer to as the sole. Fasciitis means inflammation of the connective tissue otherwise known as “fascia.”
You are not alone. Millions of people, generally over the age of 35, suffer with this pain daily. Often, they have no idea from whence it came. There they were. Minding their own business, not bothering anyone, then one morning they feel the early signs of a condition that is destined to be the bane of their early morning existence for years.
Most people simply put up with it for a while, gradually getting used to the acute pain that greets them with their first steps in the morning. They learn how to adapt their walking to minimize the pain, contorting their first paces in a way to shift the stress from the bottoms of their feet to the edges in an effort to lessen the pain.
Eventually it gets the best of them and they end up in an orthopedic (joint surgeon) or podiatric (foot surgeon) office. Initially they may try steroid shots, wearing a special contraption on the foot at night to stretch the Achilles tendon and the plantar fascia, or maybe some physical therapy. In some cases the pain persists in spite of these measures and surgery ends up in the treatment plan. This last resort often requires considerable recovery including some time lost from work.
Acupuncture or foot and ankle manipulation have proven to be very helpful in avoiding the drugs and surgical approach for many cases. Often it is recommended to provide some soft-tissue manipulation such as myofascial release to alleviate the problem. These alternative approaches can be very effective and I have treated many cases over the years without the steroid shots or surgery.
The cases I have treated have generally responded very well and resolved.
Plantar fasciitis is often the result of problems that develop over time. Poorly fitting footwear or shoes that do not provide proper support for your feet are often contributory. In some cases, postural habits contribute. For example, you may have greater risk of plantar fasciitis if you sit or drive an excessive amount of time.
Age plays a role too, as do certain medications, dietary habits and genetics.
Most cases can be treated very successfully with conservative manual care or acupuncture if caught early enough. This is truly one of those condition that you do not want to “wait and see” instead of getting proper treatment.
Unfortunately, many patients simply cover the symptoms with pain relievers, muscle relaxers or anti-inflammatory medications instead of taking actions to resolve the problem. This nearly always fails in the long run.
The key to preventing plantar fasciitis or resolving it quickly once it has developed is helping the joints restore their normal function. This approach usually works.
Here’s the best tip I can offer to prevent this aggravating condition: Buy shoes that truly fit your feet and support them well, and exercise your feet and legs daily to maintain flexibility.
If you have already developed plantar fasciitis, consider the value of drug-free, non-surgical options such as acupuncture.
Dr. Mark Kestner is a chiropractor in Murfreesboro. His office is at 1435 NW Broad St.