Plantars Fasciitis

Do you know why this is called Plantar Fasciitis? Well, the bottom of the foot is called the “plantar”  surface. There there is a large band of “fascia” on the plantar surface of the foot (actually more like connective tissue, but i digress). The “itis” part means inflammation. So Plantar Fasciitis roughly translates from med speak as inflammation on the bottom of the foot.

So i imagine that your next question is: “What causes it?” Well mostly it is referred to as idiopathic. (In other words the idiots don’t know what the pathology is). As a massage therapist i can only give you my rationale for how it happens by how i work on it.

Musculature move the body. Muscles generally (with few exceptions) attach to two separate bones and when they contract they pull those bones closer. When they release the bones go back to their original position via antagonist muscles. Did you know that the bones are constantly being rebuilt according to the strain placed upon them? Any idea what causes that strain? Yep, you guessed it, muscles and…

Fascia! Fascia attaches to, surrounds and separates everything in the body! It is like a spider web. It has (basically) two states of being. Which described in layman’s terms is like slippery spider web and gooey spider web. Slippery spider web is normal. However, gooey sticky spider web is bad (Think Dehydration)! 

Now, when ever you dorsiflex the ankle you actually stretch the fascia all the way from the knee . The fascia in question here actually is the fascia of the leg and thigh, but most specifically the leg (The leg is the area on the human body between the knee and ankle). So think of the fascia like a sock on your leg. When you dorsiflex, or plantar flex your foot you move the sock in different ways. Now consider that the sock is what actually attaches the muscle to the bone and goes in between  each of the muscles as well. So every time you flex the foot that also moves. Now lets go a little deeper. That “sock” material goes in between each of the fibers of each muscle. That sock material allows it to slide easily back and forth. But what if it doesn’t? what if it sticks?

Now you are coming to the problem.

now imagine a rubber band. you stretch the rubber band as far as it will go. you can feel the tension on each hand the more it stretches. now, tie a knot in the middle of the rubber band and try to stretch the rubber band from the knot and one end. Can you get it as far? of course not. The harder you try the more you become worried about the rubber band snapping! That knot is the fascia of the leg that won’t slide. That tension you feel on your fingers stretching the shorter elastic band is the pain in your foot. Also, could be what is causing the bone to grow to make spurs. 


The best single way to help plantars fasciitis (IMO) is “Knowledgeable” body work. The tissue needs to be mobilized gently, and re-hydrated. Overly aggressive work on the posterior leg to “go faster” will damage the tissue and complicate the problem by creating inflammatory process, not to mention potentially further damage the soft tissue.

I find the principle causative factor with this pathology is bad gait mechanics that strain the posterior line of the leg (and back). I believe that this is the primary reason that arch supports and the like make temporary improvements in PF pain. By changing the way you walk  you begin to utilize the muscles properly instead of straining them with every step! See my other article  “Walking right in to health”

Categories: Massage Therapy and Bodywork.

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