Troubled by heel pain? While a fall or a tumble may cause your heel to hurt, it could also be because the band of tissue at the bottom of your foot is inflamed – a condition known as plantar fasciitis. The good news is simple things like wearing supportive shoes, a few foot exercises, and some good old-fashioned rest and ice can take care of it. You could also try some Ayurveda or osteopathy. So, there's no reason heel pain should stop you from taking the next step in your life!
Is heel pain making it tough for you to go about your life? Stiffness, pain, or a burning sensation at the bottom of your foot could be due to a condition known as plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a flexible band of tissue that’s under your sole. It connects the bones of the toes with the heel bone and forms the arch of your foot. Wear and tear over time or some kind of damage from activities like jogging and dancing can inflame the plantar fascia and cause pain. The pain is generally worse in the morning or when you use your foot after a period of rest.
You are also more likely to get plantar fasciitis if you have flat feet or high arches, wear shoes that don’t provide proper support, or are overweight. Activities that strain your foot, like going for long runs, can also put you at risk.1 But adopting various healthy practices can help you take care of your foot better and manage the pain. And if that alone doesn’t do it, there are some natural remedies that you can try.
Get Some Rest And Apply Ice
It’s important to let your affected foot get some rest – try not to walk long distances or stand for too long. (Do keep in mind though that some exercises that stretch your plantar fascia can be helpful.) You could also hold an ice pack to the affected area. Doing this a couple of times a day for 10 or 15 minutes can help with the pain.2
Get The Right Shoes
Shoes that don’t provide the necessary support can strain your plantar fascia. The best thing for your foot would be shoes that can be laced and have moderate or low heels which support and cushion your heels and arches. Try not to wear flats. If you regularly take part in any physical activity that places extra strain on your feet (for example, running), remember to change your sports shoes after you’ve used them for around 500 miles.
You could also try orthoses, which are insoles that go inside your shoe. They support your foot and help your heel get better. Long-term use may be required if your pain keeps recurring.3
Use Splints And Straps
Night splints, which keep your toes pointing up while you sleep, can be worn to quicken recovery. They make sure that the tissue inside the heel is not squeezed and help to stretch your Achilles tendon and plantar fascia. You could also strap your heels with a sports strapping tape to relieve pressure.4
Work Your Foot
Making sure your ankle, Achilles tendon, and calf muscles are flexible can prevent plantar fasciitis. Some simple stretching exercises can help you do this.
- Start by stretching your plantar fascia first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. Try a towel stretch where you loop a towel around your foot and pull your toes toward you, without bending your knees. Repeat thrice for each foot.
- A chair stretch could also help. Sit on a chair, your feet on the ground, with your heels touching and toes pointing in opposite directions. Now raise your toes, making sure your heel stays on the ground. You should be able to feel your Achilles tendon and calf muscles tighten as you do this. Repeat this 10 times, and do it 5–6 times a day.
- You could also try a dynamic stretch where you roll the arch of your foot over a round object (for instance, a tennis ball, rolling pin, or drink can) while sitting down. Repeat twice a day. Work both your legs even if you’re experiencing pain in only one foot for the added benefit of improving balance and stability.5
Needle The Pain Away
The ancient Chinese medical system of acupuncture can help you with fascia pain. As one study showed, treatment over 4 weeks involving stimulating classical acupoints known as Taixi , Kunlun, and Sanyinjiao manually with needles provided significant pain relief.
It was also found that some people who did not respond well to this alone could be helped by additional treatment where trigger points in the gastro-soleus and plantar fascia were also stimulated.6
Plantar fasciitis (known as “vatakantaka” in Ayurveda) is treated using a combination of oral medication and topical application of herbal formulations in Ayurveda.
According to research, a treatment plan which involved taking eranda taila (castor oil) and shunti kashaya (a reduction of dry ginger powder in water) orally on an empty stomach in the morning and applying a warm paste of kolakulatthadi churna (a powder containing horse gram, Indian date, and other beneficial plants) to the affected heel and covering it with eranda (castor) leaves for 4 hours was helpful.
It was found to relieve pain and swelling completely within 15 days in 70% of the patients studied. Some diet control – specifically, avoiding sweets, peas, potatoes, curd, and fried food – was part of the treatment plan.7
See An Osteopath
Osteopathy, a form of manual therapy which addresses health issues by working on your muscles and joints, can be used to treat plantar fasciitis. Specifically, the counterstrain procedure has been found to be helpful.
During the counterstrain procedure the osteopath identifies a “tender point” where pain is felt. They then position the patient’s body in such a way that minimal pain is experienced when the tender point is pressed. This position is held for about 90 seconds before being released. In one study, though this treatment was found to bring about a significant reduction in pain immediately, the effect was considerably less after 48 hours. So this might mean you’ll need to repeat the procedure till you recover.8
References [ + ]
|1, 2.||↑||Plantar fasciitis, National Institutes of Health.|
|3.||↑||Preventing heel pain, National Health Service.|
|4, 5.||↑||Treating heel pain, National Health Service.|
|6.||↑||Tillu, A., and S. Gupta. “Effect of acupuncture treatment on heel pain due to plantar fasciitis.” Acupuncture in Medicine 16, no. 2 (1998): 66-68.|
|7.||↑||Rao, Veena G., and M. S. Nischita. “Ayurvedic management of Vatakantaka (Plantar Fasciitis).” International Journal of Ayurvedic Medicine 4, no. 1 (2013).|
|8.||↑||Wynne, Marisa M., Janet M. Burns, David C. Eland, Robert R. Conatser, and John N. Howell. “Effect of counterstrain on stretch reflexes, hoffmann reflexes, and clinical outcomes in subjects with plantar fasciitis.” The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association 106, no. 9 (2006): 547-556.|