What is plantar fasciitis exactly?
In laymen’s terms, plantar fasciitis translates to excruciating heel pain. To be more specific with a little PubMed Health medical terminology, it is inflammation of the plantar fascia, thus the term fasciitis (the foot’s bottom, the thick tissue that extends to the toes). When the fascia becomes inflamed, in comes the heal pain.
The painful condition comes with many names: calcanea periostitis, painful heel, heel spur, chronic plantar heel pain, and runner’s heel. But according to one source, the most common title needs to be revisited.
The official medical term plantar fasciitis means inflammation of the fascia, but one source claims the pain is mostly attributed to degeneration.
This means, according to authors of the article entitled Plantar Fasciitis, published in The Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, the established term fasciitis should be instead fasciosis.
So, the question stands. Is heel pain mostly attributed to heel inflammation or degeneration? Perhaps a consensus would further the development of treatment options.
However, on the bright (and more serious) side, various non-surgical treatment options do currently exist.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis… or Fasciosis
An additional source written by Emily N Schwartz and John Su briefly discuss the causes. In general, continuous overload, running, and long periods of standing cause plantar fascia pain.
It has been traditionally assumed that the overload and pressure lead to inflammation, which is usually the culprit for pain.
The two medical doctors also concur with the above source suggesting new terminology; The article states that the tissue structure of patients has “disorganization of fibrous tissue similar to degenerative tendinosis rather than inflammation.”
Overall, inflammation seems to be more easily appeased than degeneration due to the discovery of both pharmaceutical and holistic anti-inflammatories.
However, the shift in terminology to fasciosis implies a more serious condition. To go from the tissue being inflamed to actually wearing away may be cause for alarm.
Who Does This Condition Affect?
The heel pain associated with plantar fasciitis or fasciosis mostly affects athletes and those with a higher body index.
Common types of athletes affected are runners, those whose feet are subject to repetitive force.
Plantar Fasciitis Treatment
Do Corticosteroids work?
In a nutshell, yes, they work. The caveat is that they are short-term remedies. Many patients ridden with heel pain are forced to seek immediately, but short-term, relief.
A common mistake is to request prescription drugs, in addition to assuming the more invasive the drug, the better.
The common first-line drugs, corticosteroids(in injection form), according to Schwartz and Su, are not effective long-term treatments.
The two doctors seem quite confident in this assertion, as they have provided a treatment plan. In this plan, the initial treatment includes the following: weight loss, massage, simple painkillers, ice, stretching, and rest.
Corticosteroids should be avoided if possible because of potential side-effects, such as hypertension, addiction, compromised immune system, and a host of unheard of, difficult to pronounce conditions.
Dr. Theodore R. Fields of Hospital and Special Surgery has listed some of the side-effects in layman’s terms in addition to how to reduce them.
Stretch It Out.
Just give it a stretch. Some of us have rolled our eyes to this so-called remedy before. With all the innovative therapies and medications out there, stretching sounds like the remedy of a minimalist. But it works, and it is MD (medical doctor) and ND (naturopath doctor) recommended.
Stretching enhances and stimulates many of the body’s natural processes. For instance, the flexibility that results from stretching can help you avoid injury.
Stiff and immobile tissue decreases flexibility and movement; less flexibility and mobility can lead to tension and scarring.
One study was written by Engkananuwa, Kanlayanaphotporn, and Purepong observed the effects of stretching over a 4 week period. Participants who performed self-stretches on both the Achilles tendon and the plantar fascia had total relief after the four weeks.
Massage It Out.
Massaging gets more credit than stretching, as it has become a worldwide fad. However, it’s not always the drug of choice for agonizing pain.
As mentioned earlier, the misconception holds that pharmaceuticals are more effective. Pharmaceuticals may very well be for short-term relief although those suffering from heel pain should seek long-term relief.
One highly beneficial effect of massage is its ability to initiate blood circulation. Blood in itself transfers nutrients throughout the body, and painful areas need these nutrients the most. As more blood moves to the affected area, the nutrients in the blood begin the healing process.
Massages also relieve tension, a popular culprit for pain. This is especially effective for plantar issues, as the average feet are subjected to more pressure and tear than any other area of the body on a daily basis.
For athletes such as runners, individuals who stand for long periods of time, and individuals with higher BMI’s, this tension is greatly increased and leads to plantar issues.
Do Essential Oils Work?
One might argue that some conditions are better treated with conventional, pharmaceutical remedies. However, as stated earlier, medical doctors have found that the best treatments for heel pain are seemingly simple and can be done at home. This section continues the discussion of non-invasive, natural, simple remedies.
Although there exists little scientific backing for the use of holistic remedies and adaptogens, they pose little to no side-effects. Therefore, it won’t hurt to give them a try.
First up is lemongrass essential oil. Lemongrass, also called Cymbopogon, grows in tropical regions. It’s not only used in cooking but treats various health issues.
Like massages, lemongrass can increase blood circulation. Increased circulation improves aches and pains as the nutrients in the blood work to heal the affected area.
Lemongrass is also a proven anti-inflammatory. So in the case of fasciitis, as opposed to fasciosis, its effects are comparable to certain over-the-counter and prescription drugs.
One study entitled Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus) Essential Oil As A Potent Anti-inflammatory and Antifungal Drugs shows that lemongrass essential oil can reduce inflammation.
The article also suggests that lemongrass’s notable characteristics could be used to develop drugs in the future.
Peppermint oil as an effective essential oil and is often used to massage painful areas. One of the reasons for its effectiveness in the treatment of heel pain is its relaxation properties. Anyone suffering from heel pain may have trouble sleeping as the pain may become exacerbated at night.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, peppermint oil was used for thousands of years of digestive problems, headaches, and colds. It has been used topically as an analgesic to treat aches, pains, and itching all over the body.
Rosemary essential oil, or Rosmarinus officinalis, is one of the potent herbs in the mint family, along with lavender, basil, and oregano.
A chemical called antinociceptive in rosemary may foster some relief from pain. Antinociceptives promote relaxation in that they block pain receptors. Rosemary also possesses anti-inflammatory effects.
An article published in the US National Library of Medicine on the correlation between anti-inflammatory agents, pain inhibitors, and Rosmarinus officinalis L, included a study that can attest to the above claims.
What Foods Could Heal Heel Pain?
Since it was established earlier in the article that common heel pain may be caused by fasciitis or fasciosis, the proactive sufferer may want to tend to both issues to be on the safe side.
This would include incorporating foods with anti-inflammatory properties in the diet in addition to foods that help regenerate tissue.
Anti-inflammatories have become the new health fad, so no one should struggle to find a long list of these foods. To eschew repetitiveness, we’ll just discuss a few that top the list. Those include turmeric and avocados.
Avocados are considered superfoods for their many health benefits. What contributes most to their anti-inflammatory effect is a component called persenone A.
An article about persenone A present in avocados included a study showing that persenone A reduces inflammation, including inflammation associated with cancer.
A National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health article on turmeric shows its promising treatment for pain, cancer, breathing problems, and the list continues.
Turmeric is popular in Asian and Southeast Asian cuisine. Its bright orange or yellow color signifies the presence of curcuminoids.
These constituents are vastly known for their anti-inflammatory properties, and their presence in turmeric makes it as effective as ibuprofen.
Foods that help regenerate tissue usually contain amino acids. Amino acids are found more abundantly in high protein foods, as they are the building blocks of protein.
One should not limit protein intake to just animal sources, since these may exacerbate cause pain. Foods such as nuts and grains make an excellent choice.
No matter which treatment routes you decide to take, a positive takeaway is that natural, non-invasive remedies are quite effective.
These remedies are also simple enough to do at home and on your own. For simple remedies to start with, view Dr. Axe’s video: Dr. Axe’s 4 Natural Ways to Heal Plantar Fasciitis.