Plantar Fasciitis ... Or not!

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!