Plantar Fasciitis impacts more than 3 million people annually in the United States alone. Considered very common, self-diagnosis and treatment is possible, and while required in some cases, you often don’t need imaging or lab tests to diagnose the issue. So what is plantar fasciitis? What are the causes of plantar fasciitis, what are the plantar fasciitis symptoms? Are there natural remedies for plantar fasciitis (essential oils for example)? In this blog we will answer these questions!
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
As the most common cause of pain in the heel, the condition involves the band of tissues on the bottom of the foot called the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is responsible for supporting the foot’s arch. The tissues become inflamed and irritated leading to pain.
Causes of Plantar Fasciitis
Your foot’s plantar fascia is responsible for absorbing the shock in your heel when you walk. As you walk, heel to toe, the tissues absorb the impact, allowing you to walk without pain. Sometimes, this band of tissues will become damaged and even tear.
When the tear or damage occurs, the body’s natural response is to inflame due to the injury.
While inflammation is a natural response, it can lead to pain in the heel and stiffness, which is known as plantar fasciitis.
Researchers are still unsure of why people experience the extreme discomfort that they do. One study from 2003 suggests, but wasn’t conclusive, that degenerative disease may be involved in the symptoms a person experiences rather than inflammation-causing discomfort.
While the exact cause of the condition is still up for debate, we do know that certain risk factors can lead to plantar fasciitis:
- Being between the age of 40 and 70
- Women are at higher risk than men
- Pregnancy, particularly in the later stages
- Obesity or being overweight
- Long-distance running
- Activities that require you to be on your feet all-day
- High foot arches
- Flat feet
- Tight Achilles tendons
- Shoes that offer little or no arch support
- Minor redness
- Minor swelling
Anyone can be diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, and it’s a condition that most people self-diagnose. If you do visit a doctor to examine your foot, they’ll often perform a physical exam where they’ll ask you to flex your foot to see if the pain increases or not.
In some instances, when the doctor is unsure if you have plantar fasciitis or not, they’ll often recommend an MRI or X-ray.
Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms
Pain in the heel, specifically the bottom of the heel, is the most common of plantar fasciitis symptoms. Pain may also be experienced in the mid-foot, and while a person will often only have one foot affected, both feet can experience plantar fasciitis.
The pain is gradual and will continue to increase over time.
Typically, the symptoms you experience will be:
- Dull or sharp pain
Symptoms will be on the bottom of the foot and extend outward from your heel. Mid-foot pain is possible, but the bottom of the heel is where the pain is present most often.
The pain can last all day, but it’s most common during your first few steps in the morning. If you’ve been sitting for long periods of time, the pain will often be worse for the first few minutes that you’re walking around.
Stair climbing may also be difficult due to stiffness.
Pain may subside after the first few steps, but if you engage in a prolonged activity, pain, irritation, and inflammation can all flare-up. The pain normally doesn’t impact your ability to perform an activity and will often only be felt after stopping.
Natural Remedies for Plantar Fasciitis
Doctors will often recommend anti-inflammatory drugs to try and help alleviate your heel pain. Corticosteroids may be injected into your ligament, but this is only required in serious cases. Physical therapy may also be recommended and will involve stretching of the Achilles tendons and/or plantar fascia.
If you want to try alleviating your symptoms the natural way, there are a lot of options.
Plantar Fasciitis Essential Oils
Essential oils are a great, natural remedy that you can use at home to relieve pain. You'll find that many of these essential oils are great to have in your home because they have universal applications and can be used for a variety of conditions, such as for nerve pain or boosting your immune system.
The plantar fasciitis essential oils that can help ease your symptoms are:
- Lavender Oil was the focus of a 2015 study on treating both pain and inflammation. The study diluted the essential oil in a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, before massaging it into the foot.
- Frankincense Oil may help prevent leukotrienes release, according to two studies (here and here). Leukotrienes are believed to cause inflammation.
- Peppermint Oil can be applied directly to the heel or bottom of the foot and has been shown to relieve pain for a variety of conditions.
- Lemongrass Oil has shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties in a study using mice.
- Rosemary Oil was found to have analgesic properties in a pain management study involving mice. In addition rosemary essential oil was used along with acupressure in a study involving stroke survivors with shoulder pain. The participants that received the rosemary essential oil blend showed a higher reduction in pain than the group of participants that only had acupressure.
A set of essential oils in the home is one of the best choices for anyone that wants to find a natural way to relieve pain and inflammation. These oils will need to be added to a carrier oil when applied.
Stretching for Plantar Fasciitis
Stretching is recommended by doctors and therapists because it will help increase blood flow and loosen up the tendon. A traditional calf stretch can be performed against a wall. You'll need to:
- Place both palms on the wall
- Place one foot forward and one back
- Bend the knee towards the wall while keeping the back heel on the ground
- Stretch forward and bend the front knee until a strong stretch is felt in the back foot
Once you feel this strong stretch, you’ll want to hold it for 20 seconds before relaxing. There's also the plantar fascia stretch, which is performed when seated. While seated, you’ll want to cross your foot with the pain over the opposing leg’s knee.
Grab your big toe and pull them toward your knee to stretch your ligament in your foot.
You’ll want to hold this stretch for 10 to 20 seconds and repeat it numerous times on each foot.
CBD has been gaining in popularity recently as more people realize the beneficial properties of the oil. There's a lack of studies due to the federal classification of CBD, but now we’re learning that it’s a great option for anyone with chronic pain.
Studies indicate that CBD oil is effective at easing chronic pain and promoting sleep.
A 2016 study showed that CBD was able to reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation in participants. CBD has been shown to be an effective, topical pain reliever, but there’s only anecdotal evidence that it helps with people experiencing heel pain and swelling.
A night splint may be able to help stretch the arch of the foot and calves while you sleep. Typically, this is only recommended when someone has been suffering from plantar fasciitis for more than six months.
DMSO is a great alternative product that is still being studied for its ability to help with a variety of conditions. The product typically needs to be diluted, so it’s best bought as a topical, especially when it's been blended with other ingredients, such as aloe or essential oils.
Studies have been done on DMSO for inflammation that shows great promise, albeit there’s a lack of studies specifically for plantar fasciitis.
What we do find is that DMSO is able to help with many of the symptoms that are associated with the condition, including pain. Side effects include rash and a strong garlic smell, so they’re mild.