Ray Van Dolson's Blog

Pontifications from smoggy Southern California

Posts Tagged ‘health

Plantar Fasciitis

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Back in Thanksgiving of 2014, I made my yearly foray into the world of sports participation from which I typically don’t escape without some form of injury.  This time was no different, and my two hours of basketball (playing at the level you might expect of someone who takes the court only once a year) was punctuated by a seemingly harmless step that resulted in searing pain that felt like I’d broken my foot.  A trip to the doctor (and x-rays) showed no bone break, but I was hobbling around pretty good for weeks after.

Things improved a little after 8 weeks, but then plateaued and the lingering pain was constant forcing me to completely abandon jogging and ditch anything but tennis shoes for work.  Frustrated, I went to a couple more doctors and finally was told that this was almost certainly a case of plantar fasciitis for which there are, unfortunately, limited treatment options with guaranteed success.  I was told it can take years for to go away and that my best bet was to trial and error several treatment options to see what worked.  Surgery was a last resort.  I got some decent advice from my doctor, from friends and varying advice from the Internet.  Some folks espoused special supportive shoes, physical therapy or, in some cases, surgery.  Others said to go the opposite direction and just force yourself to treat your foot as if it weren’t injured to rebuild its strength naturally.

In the end, about a year after I first suffered the injury, things are almost back to normal.  Here are the things that seemed to ultimately make the biggest difference for me:

Support

Walking around a lot at work was unavoidable, and the pain I’d end up with at the end of the day just couldn’t have been a good sign as far as the healing process is concerned and the amount I was favoring my bad foot was leading to other issues.

I headed to Lucky Feet Shoes (in Riverside, CA) and left with a pair of dress shoes and aetrex L2200 Lynco Orthotics.  This set me back a few hundred dollars, but was night and day difference in my comfort at work and, most important, how my feet felt when I got home.

Shoes from Lucky Feet along with aetrex L2200 orthotics.

Shoes from Lucky Feet along with aetrex L2200 orthotics.

For bumming around, I went with the Orthaheel Wave Sandal.  These are some of the most comfortable shoes (not just flip flop) I’ve ever worn.  My house has a lot of tile (which you really want to avoid walking on barefoot), so I just started wearing these almost full time when not at work.

THE GOLF BALL

I truly believe this was the thing that made the biggest single difference.  I snagged a few golf balls (couple at home and one at work) and whenever I was sitting watching TV or at the computer, I’d remove my footwear and “roll” my foot back and forth over the golf ball.  This not only felt fantastic, but seemed to make a measurable difference in how my foot felt afterwards.  I did it standing, sitting — from any position where you can apply pressure it worked.

Exercise

My doctor had assured me I could run (to pain tolerance), but I just wasn’t as effective with a bum foot.  I couldn’t go as far and invariably ended up limping or having some strange gait after a mile or so.  I ended up switching to a bike to keep up my cardio (purchased this inexpensive stationary bike from Amazon but obviously one at the gym or a “real” bike would have done the trick).  This helped me avoid putting on weight which obviously just leads to more stress on your feet.

As my foot improved, I noticed my ankle started hurting more and more.  Due to imperceptible “adaptations” to how I was favoring my bad foot, I believe my muscles had lost strength.  The pain felt very similar to when I’d done rehab for ankle surgery, so I ended up reverting to the same exercise that helped me recover from that.  The approach is simple: I found some rubber tubing (resistance bands work fine too) and looped it around my foot holding the ends up at my waist.  I then extended my foot so my toes were pointing downward and then relaxed.  Over and over.

This video gives a pretty good example of what I mean (along with other exercises I didn’t really use but would probably be helpful)

Things that Didn’t Work

I tried a few other things initially that didn’t seem to make much of a difference for me (in other words, I tried them for many months with no perceptible improvement in my pain):

  • “Gel” orthotics – My Dr. had given me a pair of heel-only orthotics, and I’d followed that up by ordering another set from online that was full length.  These flattened pretty quickly and really didn’t make any noticeable difference for me at all.  YMMV.
  • Night Splint Brace – Supposed to stretch the plantar fascia and achilles tendon.  I tried this for a while, but didn’t seem to make a difference and was highly annoying to sleep with.
  • Foot Sleeves – To be fair, these did seem to provide some pain relief — especially when running.  They were one of the first things I tried.  I really don’t think they contributed to long-term improvement, however.

Back to Normal

So, a little less than a year later, my foot is feeling 90-95% better.  I’ve actually ditched the orthotics and no longer need to use the golf ball — though I still use my Wave flip flops just because they’re so comfy.  The foot still aches a little from time to time, but by and large I feel normal again and have gotten back to running (which I enjoy more than the stationary bike).

From reading the tales of various people afflicted with plantar fasciitis, it was pretty clear to me that everyone’s path to recovery varied pretty wildly, and even the multiple doctors I spoke to all had their own approaches.  Hopefully you find something that works for you!

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Written by rayvd

October 3, 2015 at 5:49 am

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