Podiatrists know that your fascia—those connective tissues that keep your bones, muscles, joints and bones in place—are very important. Take the plantar fascia, for example—the one that runs along the bottom of your foot, connecting your heel bone to your toes. If it becomes inflamed (plantar fasciitis), you will soon develop heel pain. And if you don’t resolve the inflammation, the heel pain can become bad enough to be debilitating.
Well, as it turns out, you have fascia all over your body, not just in your feet. And if you take care of your fascia properly, you can help stave off foot pain, as well as many other conditions.
Why Fascia Become Irritated
Because fascia surround the muscles in your body, they are affected by the health of those muscles. When you exercise or absorb impact on your muscle, the tissue around them change—tightening up, stretching out and even taking on small tears. When your tissue fibers are healthy, they all run in the same direction. But when your muscles get hurt, and have to regrow, the new scar tissue crosses old, healthy tissue in a way that causes more pulling on your joints. And that pulling can, in turn, put pressure on your fascia, allowing them to become inflamed.
Problems That Are Tied to Fasciitis
Chronic Foot Pain
As we mentioned at the beginning of this post, plantar fasciitis is a very common problem, especially for runners, since they put tons of pressure and impact on the leg muscles, joints and tendons that surround your plantar fascia. In most case, plantar fasciitis is caused by tight calves and/or flat feet—both conditions increase the pulling on your fascia.
Initial Fix: If you suspect tight muscles or flat feet are to blame for your heel pain, try these moves: roll each of your feet over a small tennis ball. Spend about a minute on each foot, each day, until heel pain resolves. You can also engage in foam rolling for your calf muscles. According to the Daily Burn, you should start by sitting on the floor with your left leg bent and your right calf resting on a foam roller that’s placed an inch or two above your Achilles tendon. Placing your hands slightly behind you, shift some weight to your right leg, putting pressure on your right calf, and roll yourself forward one or two inches so the roller approaches your knee. Slowly move the roller back to the starting position. Find a tight spot in the process? Just flex your foot, push your heel forward and keep on rolling. Now repeat on the other side. Work for up to five minutes on each side, on a daily basis. Between these two moves, your heel pain should soon resolve. If, however, it persists even after a few days of rolling, it’s time to see your podiatrist.
With so many muscles and bones surrounding and supporting your back, any little pain or problem can tweak a number of different fascia. And problems in the fascia in your legs can trigger back pain above the problem spots. Where your thoracic (middle) and lumbar (lower) spine meet is a nightmare zone. Restricted fascia anywhere-particularly in your hamstrings or quads-can pull on the fascia here. If you work a desk job, it likely means trouble in your psoas, a muscle in your hip flexors that lets you lift your knee and is vital to core strength.
Your Fascia Fix: To prevent fascia-related back pain, it’s very important to foam roll your hamstrings. You can use a technique similar to the one described above for your calf muscles. It’s also very important to stretch out your hip flexors. One great way to do so is to perform a figure four stretch: lying on your back, raise your right knee and keep it bent at 90 degrees. Cross your left foot over your right quad and grip behind your right knee, gently pulling both legs toward you. Hold for at least 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.
Because fascia surround your joints, if they tighten up, that can cause you to experience stiffness in your joints. Stiff joints are a problem because they can affect your range of motion and your gait, especially when they are located in your calves.
Fascia fix: The key to avoiding fascia-related joint stiffness? You guessed it: foam-rolling. Right after you exercise, check in with your body, and go for a quick foam roll on any tight area. Additionally, because tight calf muscles can cause so many problems throughout the body, stretch them on a daily basis, whether you have exercised or not. One easy way to stretch your calf muscles? Stand on a stair, with your heels hanging over the edge of the stair’s lip. Slowly dip your heels below the edge of the stair, holding for a few moments and returning to the starting position. Do 10-15 reps, for three sets at a time.
Happy fascia can make for happy muscles and joint in your feet—and the rest of your body. But if home maintenance isn’t keeping foot pain away, make sure to check in with your Elmhurst podiatrists for quick relief.