Understanding Your Feet When You Have Plantar Fasciitis
Have you ever thought about how your feet play a top role in how you negotiate your relationship with the earth? Every step you take must be buffered by your feet, as they endure the shock of hitting the ground. Have you ever noticed the footprints you or someone else has left on a sandy beach? You might notice that the footprints are pointed out to the sides (think Charlie Chaplin’s walk in, “The Little Tramp”), or, are pigeon-toed in. Or, you might notice that in some “prints” there is little medial arch (signifying a high arch), or there may be no arch at all. For most people who have normal arches in their feet, and whose feet track straight ahead, they do quite well. Only one problem, hardly anyone meets those standards.
However, many people with flat feet or with very high arches can experience complications in the mere act of walking. Either of these conditions can cause an unwanted amount of stress in the foot. This can result in a painful condition called, plantar fasciitis, which is an inflammation of the connective tissue in the bottom of the feet. Left unchecked, plantar fasciitis along with structural distortions in the feet, contribute to leg, knee, hip and lower back disorders.
According to Roland Wong, MSc, MD, FRCPC, prolonged standing and frequent walking in work environments pose as risk factors in the development of foot pain including plantar fasciitis. Other risk factors associated with foot pain include recreational causes, hard floors/hard-sole footwear and systemic diseases such as gout. Speaking of hard floors, anyone who has worked on concrete floors knows there is nothing theoretical in this association.
Some other causes for plantar fasciitis are being overweight or obese or having one leg longer than the other, usually originating in one hip being higher. People in some occupations where they are on their feet much of the time are more prone to fasciitis than others. Waitresses, factory workers, cashiers, restaurant workers, medical personnel, teachers and members of the military, are some of the most prominent.
Wearing certain types of shoes, such as high heels, can cause plantar fasciitis. Some years ago, the wife of an automotive executive came to me with a very bad case of plantar fasciitis. She complained that when she wore high heel shoes, her fasciitis would flare up. I explained that she would probably need to stop wearing high heel shoes. Aghast, she looked at me and sternly told me, “I don’t care. I want to keep wearing my high heel shoes, so just fix me so I can!” Because of the fashion standards followed by her friends she didn’t want to acknowledge that wearing high heel shoes were the main cause of her problem.
Many times, the first solution that comes to “medical mind” to deal with plantar fasciitis is surgery. Is this the only way? Of course not. There are far better ways of dealing with plantar fasciitis than surgery.
One expert who thinks so is Dr. Rock Positano, who as a renowned foot specialist, in the 1990s finally cured the famous New York Yankee outfielder, Joe DiMaggio of heel pain that had plagued him late in his career, and ended it prematurely. Positano is internationally known for his non-surgical approach for the treatment of foot disorders.
According to Healthline Newsletter™, “Most people don’t need surgery to relieve pain from plantar fasciitis. Instead, their condition improves through physical therapy, home treatments, and medical treatments. However, treatment can take several months to two years to improve your symptoms.”
Here are some of the non-surgical treatments being used to heal plantar fasciitis:
· Applying ice
· Wearing “feet friendly” shoes
· Orthotic inserts
· Physical therapy
From a Rolf Structural Integration practitioner’s viewpoint, my approach to correcting this condition is to look at what is happening with the whole body.
If the person is sitting down and their arches appear normal, and when they stand the arches go flat, that is a correctable condition. However, when the person is sitting down and their arches are totally flat, that is a much more difficult condition to correct.
When the problem is the feet, one should never look at the feet in isolation. Flat feet relate to muscles located on the outside of the calf called the peroneals, one of whose tendons attach to the sole of the foot near the arch. As Ida Rolf once said, “Flat arches are flat peroneals.” What she meant was that people with flat feet have peroneal muscles that are tight and shortened.
What we need to do is look at any distortions of posture and alignment anywhere in the body, since the feet are the ultimate compensators and mediators of everything above, including the fact that we almost always carry more weight on one side than the other. Any distortion in the feet will limit the body’s ability to discharge the ground impact force that comes with each step, and that force will be sent up to the next station, the knees.
There is another aspect to the importance of having competent feet. If our arches are too high, it may be difficult to be physically or emotionally grounded. If the arches are too flat, we may not have the kind of ‘spring’, bodily and psychologically, that we need to respond with resilience to whatever life my throw at us. If our feet track straight ahead without arguing with our knees and both are in agreement with our hips as our walk connects organically with our CORE, then we will have a better chance of moving powerfully toward our goals, without the painful ghost of plantar fasciitis. As we approach spring, isn’t this the perfect time to bring our bodies into alignment with our highest vision?