I had plantar fasciitis last year and got very tight with a pair of Crocs by my bed. So I know what this is like, but I also know how to fix it without surgery. Let me explain by reviewing 5 ways to treat plantar fasciitis that your doctor probably hasn't told you.
Plantar fasciitis literally translated means inflammation (-itis) of the sheet of connective tissue (fascia) covering the sole (plantar) of the foot. This plantar fascia is a tough supporting structure that attaches on the underside of the heel, fans the length of the foot, and connects at the base of the toes. If you’ve ever suffered with plantar fasciitis, you probably know it thanks to the intense pain, particularly sharp after you’ve been off your feet for a while, along the heel and sole of the foot.
What causes plantar fasciitis? The fascia can develop microtears due to added stress, for example overloading the feet (e.g., going overboard on a new fitness routine). It can also occur when low-back nerves are pinched or irritated, which affects the nerve that branches all the way down into the foot. Many people with plantar fasciitis find some pain relief with conservative therapies, such as resting the affected foot, applying ice, stretching the calf muscle, participating in physical therapy, or using supportive products, such as braces and other orthotics.
I have had plantar fasciitis, and there is nothing quite like that stabbing pain in your heel when you wake up to go to the bathroom or with those first few steps in the morning. However, I got cured by knowing all of the stuff the podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon would never tell me. So let me share my 5 ways to treat plantar fasciitis that your doctor has likely never told you about.
1. Get some Crocs! I used to wear these to work and kept them by my bedside for late-night bathroom runs. They have knock-offs as well but make sure they cushion the right areas to relieve your plantar fasciitis. The goal here is to get a cushy pair of shoes to protect and off-load the area. The right shoes really can give you a significant amount of relief and take the pressure off of those areas of sharp, shooting pain.
2. Stretch your calves. The calf muscle is jacked into the Achilles tendon, which sends a portion of itself down to your heel and plantar fascia. So if your calves are tight, this can create more tension on this painful area of the foot. Gently stretching this muscle a few times a day may provide some relief, not just in the calf muscle itself, but all the way down through the sole of the foot.
3. Check your back! If your lower back is irritated in the L5 (lumbar 5) or S1 (sacrum 1) region of the spine (e.g., due to a bulging disc), this is the area that supplies the calf muscles in the lower legs. An irritated L5 or S1 nerve can cause tightness, twitching, and so on in the calf muscle, which can then put stress on the plantar fascia area of the foot, leading to plantar fasciitis. Learn more about the association between the low back and calf muscle by watching my video below:
Realize that you may not feel much low back pain, but can still have an irritated nerve causing severe heel pain.
4. Say no to surgery and steroids. Don't let anyone cut your plantar fascia or remove a bone spur! The plantar fascia is a support for the arch of your foot, so cutting it just means a collapsed foot that will develop other problems. If you have a bone spur, realize that often it's just an innocent bystander there because the plantar fascia is weak; it’s not typically a cause for your symptoms. So removing it makes little common sense and will just, again, weaken your plantar fascia. Steroids, with their diminishing relief and toxicity to local healing stem cells, among many other side effects, are also bad news and should be avoided.
5. Consider an orthobiologic if conservative measures fail. A PRP injection got rid of mine, but the therapy needs to be global. For me, I had an irritated S1 nerve in my back, so it needed to be treated with an S1 epidural injection of the growth factors from my own blood platelets. In addition, I had one of my partners directly inject high-dose PRP into the plantar fascia origin at the heel using precise ultrasound guidance.
Make sure you don't get scammed on this procedure. We have lots of chiropractic offices offering fake stem cell treatments for big bucks, injected by nurses who generally don't know what they're doing. These offices claim that these are plentiful and young stem cells, when, in fact, they're just dead cells. They also charge ridiculous prices for these dead stem cell shots, often upwards of $4,000–7,000. All you really need is a PRP (platelet-rich plasma) shot made from your own blood. Having an expert physician do this using guidance should only cost 1–2K. See my video below for more details:
The upshot? Plantar fasciitis doesn't have to be awful. You can get it fixed without surgery with a precise ultrasound-guided injection of your own blood platelets. You may also need some work on your back. However, I've been both limping around and healed by the right treatment, so I understand where you are and where you want to be!
About the Author
Christopher J. Centeno, M.D. is an international expert and specialist in regenerative medicine and the clinical use of mesenchymal stem cells in orthopedics. He is board certified in physical medicine as well as rehabilitation and in pain management through The American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.…