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  • Writer's pictureMurray Kovesy

Can Massage Help Plantar Fasciitis?

Updated: Mar 26


Can Massage Help Plantar Fasciitis?
Can Massage Help Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of chronic heel pain, affecting an estimated 300,000 Australians each year. This painful inflammatory condition develops due to microtears and overuse of the plantar fascia – the thick fibrous tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot. While most cases resolve on their own over time, massage therapy is an effective way to speed healing and reduce discomfort associated with plantar fasciitis.


In this in-depth guide, we’ll explore the origins of plantar fasciitis pain, how massage can make a difference, what techniques prove most effective, and how regular massage can help manage and prevent future flare ups of this common foot complaint.


Understanding Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis develops when excessive strain leads to tiny tears in the plantar fascia tissue of the foot. Factors like tight calf muscles, poor foot mechanics, obesity, high activity levels, and footwear can place too much tension through the plantar fascia leading to these microtears. It also tends to appear most often in middle-aged people as tissues lose elasticity with age. The body responds to this damage by increasing blood flow and biological healing responses in the area – which manifests as inflammation and pain.


The pain is typically focused on the inner heel or arch areas, and is often most acute first thing in the morning or after long periods sitting or resting. Simply standing or walking can prove painful until the foot tissues warm up and limber up with activity. One of the best initial treatments for plantar fasciitis is physical therapy stretching and rehabilitation programs. Many experts state massage can can provide immense relief by targeting soft tissue restrictions, stimulating circulation, relaxing muscles and assisting the repair of those irritated plantar tissues.


Key Benefits of Massage Therapy for Plantar Fasciitis

There are several theorised ways targeted massage techniques can alleviate pain associated with plantar fasciitis:


1. Improves Circulation and Blood Flow

The gentle compression and skin manipulation increases blood flow to the plantar fascia and surrounding tissues. Heightening local circulation delivers more oxygen and nutrients which assists with recovery and tissue regeneration.


2. Reduces Inflammation

By physically manipulating tissues, massage is thought to enhance lymphatic drainage and reduce swelling around irritated areas of plantar fascia. The improved circulation also helps shuttle away inflammatory waste products.


3. Relaxes Muscles and Releases Trigger Points

Massage therapy applies pressure to myofascial trigger points in the feet and calves. This allows overactive muscle knots contributing to plantar fascia strain to release.


4. Decreases Pain-Causing Adhesions

The repetitive mobilisation softens and breaks down tense, rigid areas between skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments which compromise tissue health and contribute to heel discomfort.


5. Improves Range of Motion

By unlocking muscle tension and scar tissue throughout the connected kinetic chain, those reliance on their feet daily achieve greater flexibility and mobility - taking mechanical strain off the sensitive plantar fascia.





Best Massage Techniques for Plantar Fasciitis Pain

There are various massage approaches that can deliver excellent plantar fasciitis symptom relief when applied by a skilled practitioner:


- Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy

Applying sustained pressure to knots in muscles connected to arch strain triggers a release which interrupts pain signals.

- Cross-Fiber Friction

Massaging across tendons instead of along them breaks up adhesions and chronic inflammation.

- Fascia Unwinding

Applying gentle tension as the foot is rotated externally and internally frees up restrictions in connective tissue.

- Compression Massage

Alternating compression by toes, arch, metatarsals and ankles flushes tissues and mobilises joints.

- Passive Stretching

Gently flexing the ankle and toes provides a low-load stretch while stimulating associated musculature.


The most critical areas to target during massage include the plantar fascia ligament itself near its calcaneus origin, the intrinsic muscles underneath arches, as well as calf and shin tissues which transfer load through to the feet. Manual therapy directed at isolated foot regions together with stretches and range of motion movements deliver a comprehensive approach ideal for plantar fasciitis pain relief and rehabilitation.


Massage Balls and Tools for Self-Myofascial Release

While it's always best to consult a qualified massage therapist initially, using massage balls and rollers at home between appointments is also helpful for providing symptom relief as part of your self-care plan. Applying pressure to key areas of the foot by sitting or standing on textured balls inhibits signals along pain pathways much like massage does. It also allows you to move your foot across the tools to interface with tissues at different angles unique to your condition. Those with plantar pain are encouraged to try these self-massage tools daily:

- Golf Balls

The firm, molded rubber construction is ideal for precise trigger point work along the plantar fascia. Roll gently underneath arches focusing on irritated areas.

- Foot Rollers

These textured rollers allow both feet to be massaged simultaneously either sitting or standing. Helps stretch plantar tissues and calf muscles.

- Massage Ball Peanut

Sit or stand on these curved units to target tissues between toes all the way to the heel with core engaged.

- Foam Rollers

While too soft for the feet themselves, foam rolling leg muscles, IT band and glutes still takes pressure off overloaded feet.


How Frequent Should Plantar Fasciitis Massage Be?

In the early rehabilitation stages, weekly massage sessions are often recommended to get acute pain under control combined with stretches. As symptoms improve with self-care, maintenance massage appointments can taper off to fortnightly for several weeks before transitioning to monthly therapy. Any flare ups can also be promptly treated with massage as needed.


Your massage therapist may suggest a protocol something like:

- Initial Intensive Phase - 60 min therapy, over a week

- Intermediate Recovery Phase - 30 min therapy, 2 days over 3 weeks

- Maintenance Phase - 60 min therapy, 1-2 monthly ongoing

This allows massage to have both an immediate impact, get pain trending downwards through the acute phase, and then keep tissues supple long-term as a supportive measure against re-injury. The expert therapists at Motion Myotherapy tailor massage programs for plantar rehabilitation based on factors like client lifestyle, activity levels, age, health status and duration already spent fighting fascia pain.


Home Care Tips to Complement Plantar Fasciitis Massage

While massage is emerging as an incredibly viable instrument against plantar discomfort and impaired mobility, there are also daily measures one can take to extend therapy benefits between appointments:


- Calf/Foot Stretches - Don’t overlook standard stretches for Achilles, soleus and plantar fascia muscles to maintain flexibility.

- Taping/Strapping - Sports medicine tape applied in various patterns lends structural support lowering strain on fascia.

- Orthopedic Insoles - Prescription or over-the-counter inserts help correct poor foot mechanics linked to overuse.

- NSAID Medication - Anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen help control swelling and minor pain alongside massage.

- Activity Modification - Resting more intensive workouts allows plantar tissues time to regenerate without overload.

- Ice Massage - Freeze water in paper cup, tear away top to massage foot with ice for natural pain relief.

- Night Splints - These devices keep the ankle slightly flexed overnight maintaining Achilles/plantar fascia length.


When massage therapy for plantar fasciitis is supplemented with stretches, modalities like ice or tape plus ergonomic aids, this comprehensive plan gives inflamed, overworked foot structures the best possible chance to heal.


The Outlook for Recovery with Massage Therapy

The wide majority of plantar fasciitis cases will eventually heal with conservative treatment - but sometimes over the span of 6-24 months which can feel like an eternity living with pronounced foot pain. This why more aggressive rehab programs inclusive of massage are so valuable for those unwilling to sideline their active lifestyles for extended periods.


Research indicates manual therapy produces statistically significant improvements in pain and function versus standard plantar fasciitis interventions alone. Research indicates manual therapy produces improvements in pain and function for plantar fasciitis. One clinical trial divided plantar fasciitis patients into groups receiving either self-stretching alone or self-stretching plus trigger point release (TrPR) therapy. The group receiving TrPR showed greater reductions in pain and improved function compared to stretching alone (Juchli, 2021).


A case-control study found correlations between active TrPs in foot and leg muscles and symptoms of plantar fasciitis patients. A separate cross-sectional study also found associations between TrPs and plantar fasciitis pain and proposed physical examination of muscles for TrPs presence.


While small longitudinal studies are still clarifying the longevity of massage benefits, therapists specialising in myofascial work boast excellent track records helping motivated patients expedite recovery and avoid chronic pain or limping for years. Qualitative feedback indicates most clients find marked relief well before plantar cases naturally self-resolve - often resuming higher activity levels and shedding accommodative footwear early in therapy regimes.


Next Steps If Considering Massage For Plantar Fasciitis

If you’re at the point of considering massage therapy to treat troublesome plantar fasciitis flare ups, understand complete symptom resolution is absolutely possible under care of properly trained myotherapy and soft tissue practitioners.

The expert massage therapists at Motion Myotherapy offer specialised assessment and treatment for various foot and lower limb pain presentations including plantar fasciitis. We open candid discussions around client lifestyle, goals and therapeutic history to tailor intensive yet practical rehab plantar plans.


Our massage team combines techniques like trigger point therapy, myofascial release, cupping, passive stretching and compression optimised for robust circulation and rapid relief of plantar heel pain. We also provide specific self-care coaching, recovery stretches and resources to reinforce therapeutic gains long after sessions conclude.


Investing just a few weeks in consistent massage therapy primes the body for accelerated self-healing of those overtaxed plantar structures which gradually accumulate microdamage. We help circulate out inflammatory agents. Improve tissue mobility. Re-activate muscle firing order. And re-calibrate strain through your kinetic chain.


If walking, running and being on your feet has become excruciating due to plantar discomfort – reach out today to book a comprehensive assessment with one of our Northcote massage therapists tuned into relieving heel and foot pain. The sooner prolific soft tissue techniques are implemented against early stage plantar fasciitis, the faster clients succeed getting back to pain-free movement and pursuing healthy active living.


References:

  1. Juchli L. Effectiveness of massage including proximal trigger point release for plantar fasciitis: a case report. Int J Ther Massage Bodywork. 2021;14(2):22-29.

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