Some Suggestions for Easing Your
Plantar Fasciitis Pain (Heel Spurs)
by Tina Blue
September 25, 2004
A number of readers have written to ask me for advice on how to handle their plantar fasciitis, both before and after surgery or orthotripsy.
In "Heel Spurs: How I Cured My Plantar Fasciitis without Surgery" I describe the conservative treatments that solved my problems the first two times I suffered plantar fasciitis flare-ups. Two other articles describe the surgery I finally opted for on one foot ("Why I Decided to Have Surgery on One Foot"), as well as my recovery as of 16 months following the surgery ("My Left Foot"). It is now 26 months since I had the surgery, and although my feet are still susceptible to flare-ups if I am not careful with them, I am usually pain-free, and by paying attention, I can nip flare-ups in the bud, before they become crippling or irreversible.
But I have a few more tips to offer for those who want to try some techniques I have used, as well as some ideas suggested by others who have written to me about their recovery.
One reader told me that she bought negative heel shoes and wears nothing else, and now she is having no trouble at all with her feet. I don't know if that will work for everyone, but it has certainly helped her.
In a similar vein, I have to walk up a very steep hill every morning (it is actually called Mount Oread). The effect of walking up that hill is rather like the effect of wearing negative heel shoes. I end up stretching my Achilles tendons and calf muscles. I suspect that is one reason I am not being troubled by foot pain even though I am walking about ½ hour each day, sometimes more.
My sister lost 50 pounds, and her feet stopped hurting. Of course, thin people also suffer from plantar fasciitis. Still, there can be little doubt that excess weight increases the strain on an already inflamed ligament.
I used to walk to maintain my weight, and since I can't walk as much as I used to, my weight has ballooned. I can tell that the extra weight makes my plantar fasciitis worse, so I have decided that I will get rid of it, no matter what.
Are you taking NSAIDS? Different drugs work for different people. I usually use aspirin myself, but I sometimes go on a week to ten days of naproxen. (You should check with your doctor, of course.) I use what amounts to prescription strength naproxen. (Alleve is naproxen, by the way, but I buy the generic house brand. It's cheaper.) I take two or three in the morning, and then one or two twelve hours later. Be careful, though, because although they are over-the-counter drugs, NSAIDS are very powerful and can have serious--even dangerous--side effects. Don't use naproxen in prescription strength doses without your doctor's approval.
Some people respond better to ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Experiment to find which works best for you--but don't mix the drugs. Again, get your doctor's approval before you use these things, and especially before using them for any extended time.
Use an analgesic sports rub. I use "Sports Creme" because it doesn't have as strong a smell as "Icy Hot" or "Ben Gay." On nights following a day of extra walking, I use it to massage my feet along the plantar fascia and on the heels. When I get too tired or busy and forget to do it, I can tell the difference the next morning. I also frequently massage my feet in a tub of hot water.
As for shoes, I never wear anything but good support walking shoes. No heels--not even moderate ones for a short time. For dress-up, I wear black "granny shoes." Not cute, but I only care about my feet now, not about cute.
I wear "Futuro" spiral support ankle braces whenever I stand or walk. They can be purchased online if your drugstore or supermarket doesn't carry them. Don't get the kind they call "sport" braces--just the regular tan ones that look almost like elastic bandages. Orthotics are good, too, of course, but I have found the Futuro braces to be just as good, and orthotics don't fit into all of my shoes.
One reader tells me that running on tiptoe in a swimming pool has helped him since his endoscopic plantar fasciotomy (epf) surgery. The tiptoe running stretches the plantar fascia. Excercise that stretches the plantar fascia or the Achilles tendon and calf muscle helps prevent the inflammation that leads to plantar fasciitis.
Some readers have had orthotripsy. I have posted a couple of early recovery reports on the procedure (click here and here), but I have not received any follow-up reports from the writers. I must admit that I am not convinced that orthotripsy will prove efficacious in the long run. As far as I know, the procedure only dissolves the heel spur. The problem is that the heel spur is not what causes the pain of
plantar fasciitis. The problem is the inflammation of the
plantar fascia itself. When it gets inflamed and swollen, it pulls at the heel bone, and the calcium deposits that cause the heel spurs are the consequence of that constant straining at the heel bone.
In other words, the heel spurs are caused by the swollen, inflamed plantar fascia. The pain is caused also by the swollen, inflamed plantar fascia. But the pain is not caused by the heel spurs, so getting rid of the heel spurs can't cure it. Maybe orthotripsy does more than that. Maybe it also affects the plantar fascia itself. I have not seen any information that claims this, however, so I am still skeptical. If you have any information that orthotripsy actually affects the
plantar fascia ligament and not just the heel spurs, please write and let me know about it. As of now, nothing I have read suggests that orthotripsy affects anything but the heel spur.
I hope some of these suggestions help.
I say in "My Left Foot" that I treat my feet like aging but much loved pets. They have to be pampered and spoiled. As tiresome as it may seem, I must always think about how what I am doing might affect my feet.
If you have not read all the articles I have posted about people's plantar fasciitis treatments, you can find them all linked in a series at the bottom of the article index for this site. I've posted three articles about my own experiences, as well as several by other readers. If you haven't seen the whole series, go to the article index and check them out.