Massage Treatment for
Plantar Fasciitis 

Plantar Fascia

Massage can be an important part of treatment for plantar fasciitis. This condition typically has symptoms that include foot, especially heel, pain that is worse first thing in the morning, after sitting or standing for a long time, and at the beginning of a sporting activity. 

The plantar fascia is a broad band of tissue on the bottom of the foot that starts at the heel and runs to the ball of the foot. Plantar fasciitis has often been thought of as a condition caused by chronic inflammation but recent research suggests the condition is due more to the breakdown of collagen in the tissue (often following an episode of inflammation). Collagen is a protein essential to supporting body tissues.

Some sources distinguish between plantar fasciitis, inflammation caused by  initial microtears in the fascia, and plantar fasciosis, continuing pain after initial inflammation subsides and the collagen begins to break down.

Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms

Here's what happens. Microtears occur in the fascia either because of direct injury or, more commonly, repeated trauma, such as running, sitting at a desk with your heels off the floor for long periods of time, or standing all day, especially on a hard surface. Poorly fitting shoes, especially those with narrow toe boxes, contribute to the problem.

The first symptom of this foot injury is usually dull, intermittent pain in the heel, often eventually becoming a sharp, persistent pain not only in the heel but also mid-sole or near the toes. 

If there's a lot of damage to the plantar fascia, heel spurs (excess bone growth) can develop. Sometimes, plantar fasciitis is called heel spur syndrome, although the spurs don't cause the initial pain but are another symptom of the problem.

Because the foot is difficult to rest, the problem gradually becomes worse. The fascia gets tighter and tighter, and adhesions and scar tissue form. Massage can be part of the treatment for plantar fasciitis by releasing tension in the foot and surrounding muscles and breaking up the adhesions/scar tissue.

Plantar Fasciitis Massage

If you have been diagnosed by your doctor as having plantar fasciitis, feel free to give a copy of these instructions to treat plantar fasciitis to your massage therapist.

Important Note to Massage Therapist: Make sure to use a stretch and pressure well within the pain tolerance level of each client. This problem didn't occur overnight and time is required to lengthen the muscles and restore the muscle memory. Too much stretch can cause excruciating pain, which defeats the whole purpose of the massage because the pain causes the muscle and fascia to tighten up even more.

Calf Muscles for Plantar Fasciitis Massage
  1. With the client lying face down, lift one foot off the table, bending the knee so that the knee is resting on the massage table and the sole of the foot is toward the ceiling. 
  2. Take all the toes in one hand and move the toes gently in the direction of the massage table, holding each stretch no longer than two seconds. As you appply the stretch, use the thumb of your other hand to apply light-to-moderate pressure on the sole of the foot, starting at the heel. Repeat the stretch, applying pressure along the sole, moving from the heel to the toes. 
  3. Now ask your client to actively dorsiflex the foot to stretch the flexor digitorum longus, holding each stretch no longer than two seconds. At the same time, apply light-to-moderate pressure to the belly of this muscle, starting distally (on the lower calf, just above where the muscle tendon crosses the heel from the bottom of the foot) and moving toward the origin on the medial back surface of the tibia a few inches below the knee. 
  4. Let the client's leg rest and finish with a couple of minutes of soothing, relaxing massage to the foot and lower leg.

Repeat this massage procedure at least once a week (twice can produce much faster results, if it's not too much for the client's foot). Although this procedure uses pin and stretch techniques, another option is longitudinal stripping methods and cautiously applied transverse friction - for more information, see this article in in Massage Magazine by orthopedic massage therapist Whitney Lowe. 

Click here to learn more plantar fasciitis stretches.

Click here for a selection of books about treatment for plantar fasciitis. 

 Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis Video



Image Credits: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

› Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis

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