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By Morgan F Turley
A common affliction among athletes, particularly runners or those who put a lot of pressure on their feet, is plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is a specific kind of inflammation of the plantar fascia, which is a band on the bottom of the foot that runs from the ball of the foot to the top of the heel.
Plantar fasciitis is often the result of repeated trauma on this band of the foot, which is why it’s such a common injury among athletes. It’s not common that a direct injury damages this area. Those with plantar fasciitis pain cite a dull pain in the heel that is worst during the morning when weight is first placed on it. What first starts as a dull pain will persist and become sharper as time progresses and more weight is placed on it.
Tension is often the main problem with plantar fasciitis and massage is one of the best routes for addressing this problem as relaxing the muscles of the foot is key to recovery. Massage therapy for plantar fasciitis starts slowly as the therapist wants to avoid too much stretching of this area. Causing additional pain in this area will only force the muscles and fascia to tighten even more.
Therapists address plantar fasciitis by having the client lay face down on the massage table. They will then actively lift the foot and lower the leg so that the knee is bent and resting on the table. The sole of the client’s foot is facing the ceiling. The therapist will then proceed by stretching all the toes of the affected foot and pointing them down towards the massage table. While this stretch may feel intense, it should only last a few seconds. Pressure is also applied to the sole of the foot. This stretching may be repeated several times during a session, as the duration of the stretch is initially quite short.
Therapy to treat plantar fasciitis also involves the client’s active stretching of Flexor Digitorum Longus. Having the client participate by actively dorsiflexing the foot does this. While the client does this, the therapist applies pressure to the center of this muscle and works in both directions. Any adhesions and scar tissues that have accumulated in this damaged area are broken up with this activity.
Once treatment is finished for the day, the therapist always ends with a therapeutic massage that relaxes the client and ensures the muscles of the leg have not been strained. Most massage therapy plans aimed at restoring the client to comfortable walking and physical activity require weekly massages to treat the plantar fasciitis. This therapy can be provided up to twice a week, though this is only done after the client’s foot has become somewhat strengthened after a few initial therapy visits.
Massage therapy not only effectively treats plantar fasciitis but also ensures that it doesn’t return by strengthening this area of the foot. The elimination of the scar tissue in this area will help prevent further injury and keep the client actively participating in the sports they love.
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