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Health Beat: Taking care of those feet can save you pain

POSTED: April 9, 2012 1:30 a.m.

With summer around the corner, it will soon be time to pull out the sandals or walk barefoot at the beach.

Outdoor enthusiasts will reach for their tennis rackets or golf clubs, and runners and hikers will try to make a few extra strides.

Unfortunately, this welcome time of the year also marks the beginning, or the return, of a common foot condition called plantar fasciitis.

The plantar fascia is a band of connective tissue that is located underneath the foot and runs from the heel bone to the base of the toes. Its main function is to absorb shock while supporting the arches of the foot during walking, running and jumping activities.

Plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia is irritated due to increased activity levels, poor foot biomechanics and natural aging. Several common causes include:

Pronated or flat feet;

High arches;

Working or training on hard surfaces;

High heel shoes;

Worn out shoes;

Increased weight gain;

Decreased calf flexibility.

Seeking treatment as soon as symptoms begin is one of the most important actions that can be taken to alleviate plantar fasciitis.

As the fasciitis persists, the risk of increased damage occurs, prolonging the likelihood that the symptoms will be more difficult to reverse. Early treatment should consist of rest and ice to help decrease the inflammation.

Here are some other treatment strategies that may be helpful:

If you are someone with high arches or flat feet, a good pair of "off the shelf" or custom orthotics may help give your feet more support.

Avoid wearing high heels, or replace worn out shoes.

Gentle calf stretching will help increase the flexibility of the lower leg and plantar fascia.

Rolling a tennis ball on the bottom of your foot approximately five minutes a day will help increase the mobility of your plantar fascia.

Fill a plastic bottle with water and place it in the freezer. Rolling the frozen water bottle under your foot for five to 10 minutes a day will also help increase the mobility of your plantar fascia while helping decrease inflammation.

With proper care, symptoms should generally subside within four to six weeks. If you continue experiencing foot or heal pain for longer periods of time, it is recommended that you follow up with your doctor.

Jim Hlavacek MS, PT, DPT; is a physical therapist at The Rehabilitation Institute, 597 S. Enota Drive NE, Gainesville, GA 30501; 770-219-8200; www.nghs.com/rehab.


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