Plantar fasciitis is pain on the bottom of the foot, usually around the heel and arch of the foot. It involves inflammation of the band of tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot, connecting the heel to the toes. Typically, the pain will ease and resolve itself, but are there any ways to speed up recovery? Is massage good for plantar fasciitis?
Massage is good for treating plantar fasciitis as it helps to loosen the fascia and break down scar tissue. Ultimately, this helps to relieve pain and improve an individual’s range of motion. However, experts state this massage is most effective for plantar fasciitis when used in conjunction with other treatments such as stretch and exercise.
Read on to learn more about plantar fasciitis massage with Breeze Academy.
Does Massage Help Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is often considered to be a repetitive strain injury (RSI). Therefore, massage is a helpful treatment for relieving the strain. More vigorous massages, such as sports massage or deep tissue massage, are particularly helpful as they help loosen the tendons, ligaments and fascia of the foot.
In fact, Doctors often recommend massage as a more conservative treatment for plantar fasciitis before turning to more significant treatment options if the condition does not respond well.
Further to this, a number of studies have concluded that massage is a suitable treatment option for managing plantar fasciitis. For example, a 2021 study recommends trigger point therapy as an effective treatment. Meanwhile, a 2019 study recommends that treatment begins with stretching the plantar fascia, which may be achieved via deep tissue or sports massage.
How Massage for Plantar Fasciitis Helps
Plantar fasciitis massage is steadily becoming more common. It has been shown to encourage the return of function to the area by helping to break down scar tissue, improve circulation, manage pain and more.
Massage is well known for stimulating the release of endorphins - the body’s natural painkillers. This can temporarily relieve the pain and discomfort associated with plantar fasciitis. Other benefits may have more long-term effects, which, in turn, could also reduce pain levels over time.
Increased Blood Flow
Likewise, massage is also well known for improving blood flow. During massage, friction is created between the skin and fingers, improving blood flow. In turn, this helps to reduce pain and swelling and may accelerate healing.
Massage may improve flexibility in the foot by increasing tissue elasticity. Some massage techniques apply pressure to muscle fibres which stretches and elongates them, helping to improve flexibility in the long run.
Massage helps to relax and reduce tight muscles by increasing the temperature of soft tissues, improving blood circulation and breaking down adhesions. In turn, this addresses any tightness in the plantar fascia.
Breakdown of Scar Tissue
The breakdown of scar tissue is a common benefit of massage. Scar tissue is made up of collagen fibres and fibrous connective tissues that play a part in the healing of damaged tissues in the body. Regarding plantar fascia, this occurs due to the stretching and tearing of fibres, which become covered in scar tissue as they begin to heal.
When there is a build-up of scar tissue, it can become restrictive as it is less flexible than the fascia. Massage can help to break down scar tissue to relieve pain and improve range of motion.
Massage Techniques for Plantar Fasciitis
Several massage techniques are thought to be effective in treating plantar fasciitis. These include:
Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage involves applying firm pressure to target deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. Deep tissue massage can help release tension and break down adhesions that may contribute to plantar fasciitis symptoms.
Learn more about deep tissue massage in our blog, What is the Difference Between Sports Massage and Deep Tissue Massage?
Trigger Point Therapy
Trigger points are knots or tight spots in muscles that can contribute to pain. Massage therapists can identify and apply pressure to these trigger points to release tension and alleviate discomfort.
Learn more about this in our blog about Soft Tissue Mobilisation.
This technique involves applying sustained pressure to the myofascial connective tissue to release restrictions and improve mobility. It is thought to align the fascia around the muscles, which helps improve circulation and encourage normal movement.
Cross-fibre massage involves applying pressure across the fibres of the muscles and tendons. Cross-fibre friction massage can help break down scar tissue and improve flexibility in the plantar fascia.
For milder cases of plantar fasciitis, there are a number of stretches and self-massage techniques that can be done at home to prevent the condition from getting worse or becoming chronic.
A key consideration when performing self-massage techniques is that massaging the feet should feel good or, at worst, uncomfortable. It should not be painful.
A few self-massage examples include:
- Heel-of-hand massage - sitting down, bring one foot to rest where it is easily reachable. Use the heel of your hand to push down on the sole of your foot, working from the heel to the toes. Start with longer strokes and light pressure, increasing the pressure as you go. Do this across the foot a few times to loosen the fascia.
- Thumb pushes - Sit down and cross one leg over the other. Use both thumbs to push along the length of your sole, moving from heel to toe. Do this for one to two minutes. Increase the pressure as desired by leaning in to use more body weight.
- Thumb pulls - Sit down and cross one leg over the other. Put both thumbs in the middle of your foot. Pull one thumb towards the right side of your foot, moving the fascial tissue whilst simultaneously moving the other thumb to the left side. Do this for one to two minutes. Increase the pressure as desired by leaning in to use more body weight.
Other Treatments for Plantar Fasciitis
Whilst massage has been shown to be effective in treating plantar fasciitis, it is most effective when used in conjunction with other treatments. These include:
- Gentle stretches - stretching the calf muscle and fascia can help to relieve tension.
- Gentle exercises - strengthening exercises for the foot can support stretches.
- Appropriate footwear and orthotics - wearing appropriate, supportive footwear with good arch support can alleviate symptoms.
- Cold therapy and rest - applying ice to the affected area, alongside proper rest, can reduce inflammation.
- Anti-inflammatory medication - Your doctor may recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen to reduce pain and inflammation.
Final Thoughts on Massage for Plantar Fasciitis
Massage has been shown to be an effective treatment for plantar fasciitis, helping to relieve pain, reduce tension, and break down scar tissue. Over time, this may return an individual’s range of motion. However, experts explain that it is most effective when used in conjunction with other treatments, including stretching and exercise.
If you’re interested in offering Massage Therapy to your clients to help reduce pain and return their range of motion, take a look at our courses today. We offer both beginner and more advanced Massage Therapy courses that provide all the skills and knowledge needed to safely and effectively practise massage.