Healing Heel Pain: Plantar Fasciitis

October 3, 2011 9:57:14 AM PDT
Two million Americans suffer from plantar fasciitis. One out of 10 people experience it in their lifetime -- making it the most common cause of heel pain. So, what can you do to not only treat it, but prevent it?

Walking. Our feet average 115,000 miles of it in our lifetime. That's four-times around the globe. But, with overuse, our feet can develop heel pain often caused by plantar fasciitis -- an inflammation of the tissue on the bottom of the feet.

That's what happened to Michelle Mehr. She ruptured her plantar fascia playing competitive Ultimate Frisbee and couldn't exercise for a year.

"It was challenging for me. I don't like to be inactive," Michelle told Ivanhoe.

"So, people will wake up first thing in the morning, and their first few steps, they'll have some discomfort in their heel, and usually for the first week or two, they write it off and say this is going to get a little bit better, and they'll stretch maybe, but usually the symptoms don't go away," Christine Panagos, PT, SCS, CSCS, a board-certified sports physical therapist at Providence Sports Care, told Ivanhoe.

Before spending money on pricey custom-made orthotics, experts recommend trying over-the-counter inserts first. Another tip? Have someone look at how you're running to make sure you're not overpronating and putting yourself at risk.

Early intervention includes a good balancing and stretching program.

Here are two you can try at home. First is the hip abduction. Next, try clambshells. Stack your hips in a fetal position and raise.

"So, we want to prevent that foot from rolling inward and that arch from collapsing," Panagos explained.

If a stretching program doesn't help after six weeks, you may be referred to an orthotist for custom-made orthotics. That's what got Michelle back on track.

Athletes like Michelle and people who are either overweight or stand for long periods of time are most prone to plantar fasciitis. Wearing old, worn out shoes is another culprit. Make sure to replace yours every three to six months.

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