Your Health

Healing the heel: Top solutions for mitigating foot pain

Courtesy of PhysioFit
The plantar fascia can become inflamed, stressed or damaged when the soft tissues of the foot are overused, causing heel pain.

We live in a fast-paced and busy world. Taking time off for an illness or injury can be stressful or even panic-inducing. When people wake up and discover sudden heel pain disrupting their ability to walk comfortably, they often think, “How fast can I get pain relief and walk freely again?”

What causes plantar fasciitis?

A physician may diagnose extreme heel pain as soft-tissue inflammation that is possibly degenerating the plantar fascia. This is a very fibrous tissue, like a thick cord of connective tissue attaching the heel bone to the ball of the foot, that supports many foot bones.

The plantar fascia balances the weight of the body and its motion throughout the foot. The plantar fascia can become inflamed, stressed or damaged when the soft tissues of the foot are overused. Weight gain, prolonged walking or standing can be factors.

People most often develop plantar fasciitis unexpectedly, even when they are regularly active in physical activities such as walking, running, jumping, playing tennis and golfing.

To remedy the pain, stretch before participating in intense workouts and other physical activities to decrease stress on tendons and calf muscles. Sandals or flip-flops could also damage the plantar fascia, because those types of shoes lack arch support.

Temporary solutions or permanent fix?

Using shoe inserts, wearing proper footwear or even using splints while sleeping will only temporarily protect an injury. The weakened condition of the foot means it is easy to reinjure your plantar fascia.

A permanent solution that stabilizes and rests the injured area is required. This will relieve the pain and strengthen both feet equally, allowing one to get back to a full and physically active life.

Healing and strengthening for true foot health

Pain and swelling can be treated with ibuprofen, ice and rest so that the foot can heal over time. Specialization techniques locate the root cause of painful inflammation and inflamed soft-tissue lesions.

Physical therapists are trained in rehabilitative techniques that restore plantar fascia and surrounding foot muscles and ligaments and stimulate better circulation to the foot bones. A physical therapist can teach ways to strengthen feet to avoid future damage or pain.

A winning combination

The Graston Technique uses uniquely designed instruments to isolate the fibrotic tissue and pinpoint soft tissue lesions, scar tissue and fascial restrictions.

Together with the Graston Technique, other active release techniques and a guided Pilates program, a physical therapist can locate and quickly treat scar tissue. Patients can return to pain-free movement and protect their plantar fascia during the healing process to learn how to safely resume the physical activities they enjoy.

Kim Gladfelter is owner, physical therapist and Pilates instructor at PhysioFit Physical Therapy and Wellness, 1000 Fremont Ave., Los Altos. For more information, call 887-6046 or visit

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