Back in 2013 I found myself in one of those patterns that happens in our Reflexology businesses quite frequently. That pattern of repeatedly seeing clients with the same problem and/or issue.
And this one was ‘sore feet’. A VERY painful plantar area of the foot. And, particularly painful first thing in the morning when the person gets out of bed and puts their feet flat on the floor to take their first steps.
Some people had self diagnosed this as plantar fasciitis.
The plantar fascia is the flat band of tissue (ligament) that connects your heel bone to your toes. It supports the arch of your foot.
Plantar fasciitis is caused by straining the ligament that supports your arch. Repeated strain can cause tiny tears in the ligament. These can lead to pain and swelling. According to podiatrists this is more likely to happen if:
Your feet roll inward too much when you walk
You have high arches or flat feet.
You walk, stand, or run for long periods of time, especially on hard surfaces.
You are overweight.
You wear shoes that don't fit well or are worn out.
You have tight Achilles tendons or calf muscles.
But something was missing!
Some of my PF clients had previously been to a podiatrist and been told they needed an orthotic or special arch support, usually at quite a cost, and then sent away. A few had been given exercises to do, but not really told why or what the exercises were targeting, and to be honest the exercises often exacerbated the situation, creating even more tension under the foot in the already tight and painful area. The arch support situation surprised and annoyed me the most, as it seemed logical to me that suddenly wearing an insert in your foot to force it in to a new position for an entire day, in itself was creating more stress in the area. I have subsequently had this confirmed from a Podiatrist, who says that he instructs people to wear the new insert for short periods of time initially, and to build up the length of time gradually.
I must at this point add that I had already been having fairly good results by applying extra work to the reflex areas on the feet related to calf/ankle/hip and also by working the entire heel pad area and ankle.
But then I started to notice similarities between the clients. All of them had sore and/or stiff lower backs and extreme tightness all the way along their legs. None of them could bend over and touch their toes with their legs straight, while standing. Some said they used to be able to and some said they had never been able too, always feeling tight from lower back down.
I had found the missing bit! Plantar Fasciitis starts in the back!
A tight lower back is a problem but not debilitating.
Tightness down the legs is annoying and sometimes limits certain movements and certainly flexibility, but is not debilitating.
Stiffness in the ankles and tightness in the Achilles tendon is particularly frustrating, and usually means no more running if the person is a runner.
However, it is when the feet become tight and then sore that people take notice, because that is debilitating!
Plantar fasciitis is therefore not always plantar fasciitis YET! It’s not at the ‘tiny tears and inflammation stage’ YET! It is merely tightness! Very tight, and very painful, but not yet PF.
I have always had a very keen interest in stretching and flexibility, particularly being a musician, as it was very necessary in maintaining a pain free body. You can imagine what practicing the flute for three hours a day can do to the muscles. The repetitive nature of being in one, often fairly unnatural position, for many hours at a time, is a very real problem in most musicians lives.
I saw and recognised a need in my clients, and Stretch Fit started in February 2014. A space in which people (ladies at this stage) could become aware of the tension patterns in their bodies and learn how to release them.
Along the way I have read heaps of literature, online and in books, and experimented with various well known stretches from Yoga, Pilates and other movement therapies, even developing my own.
But the secret ingredient is this ...
You can not actually "stretch" a muscle?
Muscles are not elastic. We can't simply make them longer.
Rather, gaining and maintaining flexibility involves training the nervous system to relax the muscles, release the tensions found there and regain elasticity in the surrounding fascia. And this is done through taking charge of your muscles through the control of your central nervous system and coupling the power of your brain with your breath ... in particular the ‘out breath’.
I thought about the phrase ‘muscle memory’, and decided that it is not muscle memory at all but rather ‘central nervous system’ memory. I know we do actually talk about muscle memory and cellular memory and I do not dispute that. But for the purposes of stretching, or rather releasing, I choose to hammer home the fact that the ultimate controller in our bodies ... the big boss ... is our brains!
And it works. I’ve seen it work.
I have personally felt it work. In fact I experience this every time I stretch, and that is daily.
I read a great article on stretching recently and the question was asked, “What do you think the number 1 mistake is that most of us make with regard to stretching?” And the answer was ... “NOT STRETCHING AT ALL.”
But, back to the problem at hand, the growing Plantar Fasciitis problem.
I quickly came to the realization that the growing numbers of people through my studio door seeking help with PF symptoms, was not due only to the fact that word was getting out that that I could possibly help them relieve their pain and get them on their feet again, but rather due to the fact that the number of people with lower back stiffness and problems was growing too.
Of course it would, we are a generation of sitters!
I now saw the bigger picture, and found the key to the solution
for you, in the form of Anatomy Trains!
Anatomy Trains is a unique map of the ‘anatomy of connection’ – whole-body fascial and myofascial linkages. The Anatomy Trains concept joins individual muscles into functional complexes within fascial planes – each with a defined anatomy and ‘meaning’ in human movement.
Anatomy Trains was developed by author and body worker Thomas Myers in the 1990’s.
It has vastly broadened my capacity to assist my clients and Stretch Fit ladies, with not only plantar fasciitis, but with many other physical body patterning and postural problems, tensions and even pain.
And furthermore, help them to prevent further injury to themselves.
Thomas Myers has mapped 11 myofascial meridians, with the one that I refer to the most frequently, being the Superficial Back Line.
The Superficial Back Line
The Superficial Back Line is a myofascial meridian that connects the entire back side of the body from the plantar surface of the toes to the brow-line of the frontal bone on the forehead.
Toe pads - plantar surface - heel - Achilles - calf - behind knee - hamstring - buttocks - lower back - entire back - shoulders - neck - scalp - brow-line
From ‘Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual & Movement Therapists’ by Thomas Myers
Tension/tightness anywhere along the Superficial Back Line acts like a knot in a piece of string ... it shortens everything!
While the purpose of this blog is to specifically share with you what I have found as pertaining to PF, it stands to reason that this approach and the combination of stretches and reflexology will benefit and improve any tension and restriction anywhere along the Superficial Back Line.
And indeed I am doing that already with astounding results!
Emotional Probable Cause
The steps on our physical journey through life are taken by our feet.
It makes sense therefore that problems in our feet can occur from an emotional ‘wobble’ of some sort, and are manifested in the physical as a condition that portrays this faltering in our steps.
I’ve found 3 interpretations for you to mull over ...
According to Louise Hay: “You Can Heal Your Life” www.louisehay.com
Feet - Represents our understanding of ourselves, of life, of others. Are you the “shock absorber” for your family and friends?
Foot problems - Fear of the future and of not stepping forward in life.
According to Maureen Minnehan Jones: www.maureenminnehanjones.com
Plantar Fasciitis: Are You Serving as the “Shock Absorber” For Others?
If so, it’s possible you could develop plantar fasciitis. After all, the plantar fascia ligament serves as the “shock absorber” for our feet.
When someone becomes the support system for everyone except himself or herself, it can greatly affect this ligament. In fact, individuals who have plantar fasciitis are prone to absorb the “slings and arrows” of the world around them. They tend to feel responsible for holding everything together; they take on the job of keeping family, friends, and others around them stable.
For anyone with plantar fasciitis, the desired new belief system could be stated like this: “I’m going to support myself in a healthy way by not being responsible to make everything okay and stable for everyone else. I won’t continue to be the ‘shock absorber.’ Rather, I’ll allow others to support me and keep all of this in balance.”
According to Glenda Hodge: www.holisticreflexology.com.au
The plantar fascia is the band of connective tissue that runs along the sole, from the heel to the ball of the foot. From another perspective, this tissue runs between what the group wants (base chakra) and your personal rules and boundaries (solar plexus chakra), passing over the power games area of the foot (sacral chakra). Therefore, any pain in this area could be caused by divided loyalties or a sense of being pulled in two directions. There could be a pull between what the group, family, culture or another wants, and what you want for yourself.
Where do your loyalties lay: with your own needs or the needs of others?
Do you find it difficult to find a balance between the two?
Are you overshadowed by what another wants?
Do you do for others at the expense of yourself?
In trying to honour yourself, do you end up putting others first?
Do you feel as though you are in a tug-of-war, being pulled in two directions by others, your job or family dynamics?
Discomfort in this part of the foot can also be related to how much you have to compromise your personal beliefs to fit into a relationship/group.
The most important clue to the cause of the pain is:
When did it begin?
What were you doing?
What were you thinking at the time?
Muscular System of the body on the Feet
I have to admit that the muscular system of the body, as mapped out on the feet has been a bit of a conundrum to me. I now approach each treatment a bit differently to how I used to. The truth is that even if the approach seems completely out of the bounds of what I was taught, I cannot deny that it is working.
Once I have completed all the other systems during the client’s treatment, according to a usual foot chart, I then turn to this one. I know it is not really a chart, but I visualise the entire muscular system on the feet and work the areas that are needed. But as you can see the body is the other way around. And there is the conundrum....
While the feet are still reflecting the same side of the body, I feel that the plantar surface is the back. The buttocks are on the heels, etc.
The limbs are still worked down the lateral edges of the feet and the spine along the medial line.
Plantar Fasciitis treatment plan
Successful treatment of PF requires a combination of reflexology and stretches. The role that the client plays in the treatment process is particularly necessary and very important holistically, if you take into consideration the various descriptions of the emotional aspect of this condition.
Give a full treatment as you would normally do.
Then switch your mind to the image of the muscular system on the feet and alter your technique to working in long rubbing strokes, working from the bottom of the outer heel all the way up to the little toes, ending with a gentle tug on the little toe.
While doing this your client may experience a twitch or two in the muscles of the leg as the release occurs.
This technique is also extremely powerful in the treatment of restless leg syndrome.
Allow more time to concentrate on the following areas and reflex points as indicated in the coloured areas.
Don’t forget to work the spine and limbs on the medial and lateral edges of the feet too.
Stretches and Golf Ball Technique
Gentle releasing stretches that target all the muscles of the Superficial Back Line are paramount in reversing the symptoms of PF.
While I am sadly, not there to show you myself, I have found the following website to show the technique and details of the stretches in the most clear and informative way.
Not all the stretches listed are necessary for PF treatment, so focus on the ones that release, twist and work on the lower back, buttocks and legs.
Golf Ball technique
Standing, and with your legs straight, but not locked, slowly bend over, by curling your head and shoulder over, aiming your finger tips to touch your toes, or as close as you can. Feel the tensions you are experiencing along the entire Superficial Back Line area and see how far your fingers are from the floor.
Slowly stand up again by uncurling.
Now stand securely on one foot and place the ball under the heel of the other foot. Roll the ball around under the outer edge and heel of your foot until you find an area that you feel to be tight or painful with the pressure of the ball.
DO NOT PRESS INTO THE BALL.
Merely relax your entire leg and drop your hip and let your weight sink in to the ball. As the pressure under your foot becomes more comfortable you may then lean into the ball and press a wee bit harder.
Swap to the other foot and do the same.
Both legs may feel very different and the area you target with the ball under your feet may be different.
Once you have done both feet as long as you like, either once or twice, then slowly curl over aiming to touch your toes ago.
What do you feel?
You have now released the tension in your Superficial Back Line. Well done!
Disclaimer: Please rememer that these are the views and findings of the therapist and you are are reminded to seek advice from a health care practitioner in your area if the sysmptoms persist.