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Tag Archives: fasciitis

(If you’re missing some context, the story starts here.)

Session Two changed my life. I fell in love with Rolfing during Session One, but Session Two was when I first realized we should probably move in together; you know, take things to the next level. I’ll never forget that feeling, when my first Rolfer asked me to sit up toward the end of the session. She wanted me to walk, so she could asses the progress, see what else needed to be done before closing the session. I sat on the edge of the table, feet on the floor, staring down in disbelief. Those were not my feet. I mean, I knew what my feet looked like. Not just as a human, who generally knows what her feet look like, but as someone who had a not-very-great relationship with feet in general and her own feet in particular. I hated my feet. I hated all feet, actually. They were weird-looking. And smelly. And sweaty. And just generally gross. Feet, ew. And when I was 20 years old, my right foot swelled up overnight for no apparent reason and never went back to being its normal self. It had been a source of shame and frustration ever since. I had wanted to pretend my feet didn’t exist for most of my life. But because I hated my feet, I was also obsessed with my feet. Comparing them to each other. Comparing them to other people’s feet. Getting mad at them for not being like other people’s feet. You know how it goes. So, I knew well what my feet looked like. And as I sat there on the edge of the table, staring at the place between my ankles and the floor, I knew, those were not my feet.

It’s true, this makes no sense. I hadn’t had surgery during the session. I hadn’t lost consciousness (at least, not for long). There were no wounds. And I didn’t think I was in some bizarre magic land where body parts were randomly swapped out. But still. Those feet at the ends of my legs were not the feet I knew and hated. They looked…different. I can’t say how, exactly. They just didn’t look like mine, even though the nail polish on those toes was exactly the same color as the nail polish had been on my toes an hour earlier. My brain was seriously struggling for a minute, but my Rolfer was waiting for me to stand up and walk and I didn’t want to say out loud the crazy thought that was running through my head, so I just stood up.

And my world changed.

Oh. So this was what feet were supposed to feel like. I had no idea. It was like I had great big lion’s paws down there at the ends of my legs. Soft and strong and supple. This was what standing was supposed to feel like. I’d never done it this way before. Balanced and comfortable and easy. And then I started walking. Whoa. It was like I was on wheels it was so smooth and effortless. This was better than that poor approximation of walking I had done before. Better by far. Those feet may not have looked like mine, but I was keeping them. No way in hell was I giving those feet back. I loved those feet.

How did I not understand before how amazing feet were? 26 bones, 33 joints, practically infinite possibilities.

Session Two, in case it isn’t obvious by now, is dedicated to the lower legs and feet. The one and only (but very challenging) goal is “functional, bilateral support.” Questions to think about (as the Rolfer, or for you at home) include things like: Which leg is it easier to stand on? Does the weight transmit (in each leg) through the medial (inside) aspect of the foot or the lateral (outside) aspect of the foot? When doing a knee bend, do the knees move straight forward and straight back (or point out, or point in, or wobble, or move in different ways)? Are all three arches (yes, three!) of the foot responsive to loading and unloading?

Since that day, 7 1/2 years ago when I first received Session Two, I have fallen deeply in love with feet. Not in that way. Geeze. I just love working with feet and I continue to love my feet. I think they’re fascinating. The way the bones are formed into those three arches, all by muscles and fascia, both within the foot and throughout the lower leg. The way the foot and ankle respond to the slightest changes in surface while standing, walking, and running. How we mess up all of this beautifully intricate and genius ability with shoes. How we think that point and flex (and maybe pronate and supinate) are the only options. How it’s so hard to explain that what happens in the foot is reflected in the pelvis. There’s just so much to know when it comes to the feet.

It’s interesting. When I went through my first 10-series, any pain or tension I had was always in my shoulders, neck, and upper back. I found those sessions (2, 4, and 6) focusing on the lower body a little aggravating. When were we going to get to the good stuff?! But I think all those lower body sessions were the ones that ended up making the biggest difference in clearing up my shoulder, neck, and upper back pain. See, my feet weren’t supporting my legs, which therefore weren’t supporting my pelvis, which obviously couldn’t support my ribcage, which couldn’t support my shoulder girdle, and so on. Once I got my feet under my legs, my legs under my pelvis, and my pelvis under my ribcage, all my upper-body pain started to fade. Which meant that all those lower-body sessions I thought were a waste of time ended up being the most dramatic when I stood up from the table. And the ones I was looking forward to the most, the upper-body sessions, while still cool, had a subtler effect.

This time through the 10-series, I’m having the opposite experience (so far). I was blown away by One. And while Session Two felt good, it was small, gentle differences I noticed afterwards. While thinking about why this might be, I realized how differently I treat my feet now versus 8 years ago. Because I was so uncomfortable with my feet, I was always hiding them away. I wore shoes always. And heels. Lots of high heels. I never went barefoot outside of the house. Now, I’m a huge proponent of being barefoot and wearing minimalist footwear. I own one last pair of heels and I think I wore them once (maybe twice) in the last year. I walk barefoot whenever I can, despite the weird looks I get. I wear minimalist (zero rise, flexible soled, wide toe-box) shoes whenever I can. So the way I’m living is supporting healthy, flexible, highly functioning feet, all day, every day. It shouldn’t be surprising that I don’t need a big, dramatic Session Two anymore. A little fine-tuning, some minor adjustments, sure; but the big work has already been done. Huzzah!

But don’t you worry, Session Two, you will always hold a special place in my heart.

Once upon a time I wrote an article about plantar fasciitisWhile I found it absolutely brilliant at the time, I have since realized it’s lacking in the practical application department.  Sure, you can get a great basic understanding of what plantar fasciitis is and why you might suffer from it.   And those things are very helpful and all well and good and a wonderful place to start.  In fact, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, go here and read the article now, before you continue on with this little ditty.  But then what?  Yeah, it hurts.  No, I can’t run anymore.  Theresa, are you ever going to tell me what to do about it?

The thing is, since any number of things can cause plantar fasciitis, it’s awfully difficult to give generic advice about.  But I’m going to try.  ‘Cause I’m an overachiever.  So, first things first, we need to figure out where the root or roots of your particular plantar fasciitis may be hiding out.  Let’s start with the most obvious.  Have you injured your foot lately?  Stepped on a big pokey rock while barefoot?  Gone a bit overboard with the salsa dancing?  If so, it’s probably best to use the RICE method for a while.  Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation; just like you would for a sprained ankle.  And we all know that with ice we’re doing 20 minutes on, then 20 minutes off, right?  After 20 minutes of icing something, you start to increase the inflammation, so don’t go pushing this, trying to be an overachiever, too.  After a week or so of the chowing down on your RICE, you can start pushing around in there to see if you’re ready for some soft tissue work.  If it’s still super sore to the touch, keep RICEing ’til it doesn’t.  If you can get a moderately deep foot massage without pain, you’re ready for deep work, if you need it.  If your pain’s gone completely, congrats! you just healed your own plantar fasciitis!  Otherwise, use a tennis ball, standing on it and rolling slowly, slowly over the owie spots to get them to loosen up.  You don’t want to bring back that inflammation, so be careful.

Now, let’s say you have not injured your foot, but you still have plantar fasciits.  This is where it gets tricky.  Naturally, we’re going to be looking along your back line for a super tight spot that could be causing your foot pain.  Starting with your heel and using your fingers (or someone else’s) or a tennis ball dig into your soft tissue (not the bones) slowly working your way up your calf.  Be careful as you get to the knee ’cause there’s a whole bunch of juicy, yet delicate stuff right there in the open at the back of the knee.  In fact, just don’t press into the back of the knee.  It’s not worth the risks.  Then head up your hamstrings, which could take a while as those are some meaty suckers.  Speaking of juicy meat, head north through your glutes, going slow and savory-like.  Next up, low back, heading up to mid, then upper back.  Again, you should be able to manage all this while lying on a tennis ball on the floor, but having a friend do the work for you is extra nice.  If you still haven’t found your “ouchy!” spot, head up (gently!) to the neck, then over the head, all the way to your eyebrows.  If you haven’t found any especially tight spots, you’ve got a catch-22 to deal with.  On the one hand, you’re the only person in the whole country who doesn’t have a single tight spot along their back line.  You should get a prize!  On the other, you still have no idea where your plantar fasciitis is coming from and you’re probably going to require some help from a professional.  Can’t win ‘em all, I suppose.

If, instead, you have found a tight spot, or six, you now know where to focus your efforts.   Loosen up that fascia, nice and slow and easy-like, using that same tennis ball if your hands get tired or you can’t quite reach.  Little bits at a time; like 5 or 10 minutes a day.  Max.  Again, I’m the only overachiever allowed here.  I don’t want you doing more damage than good.  Don’t go pretending you’re a Rolfer.  Besides, when Rolfers work on themselves they tend to get all messed up ’cause they don’t respect their own boundaries and stop when they should.  Better not to go there.  Trust me.

After a week or so working on your trouble areas, you should start to notice a shift in your plantar fasciitis pain.  If not, reevaluate.  Retest your back line and see if maybe your tight spots have moved.  If you feel like you need the help of a professional, give me a call.  You may also have some energetic blockages that need to be cleared and we’ll go into that next.  But if you’re noticing a difference in the right direction, keep up the good work!  Remember not to overdo it, but consistency can go a long way here.

Energetic gunk and plantar fascia.  I don’t have a logical explanation for this, but I do have a story.  My mom called me and told me she had plantar fasciitis and she needed me to fix it.  Lucky for her, I was flying into Chicago the next week and I could take a look.  We did a session.  All went well, but I couldn’t find any outstanding tightness in her back line that pointed to causing this foot pain.  So after the session had a day to settle out I asked how her foot was feeling and she said the pain was still there.  I was heading back to Denver that evening and didn’t have time for another session, nor did I think that would help.  Instead, I asked her to do some energy work on her heel, whenever she could.  I told her to pretend to draw the stuck energy out of the bottom of her heel, as if she were pulling yarn out of a ball.  Just an inch or two at a time, over and over again.  Maybe only 3 minutes at a time, but several times a day.  I told her to do it whenever she sat down.  So she did.  And 2 weeks later, she said it was completely gone.  That was in November and she hasn’t had any problems with it since.  So, hey, why not give it a try?  It’s free, it’s easy, and at least for one person, it worked.

Yes!  I did it!  Practical tips for dealing with plantar fasciitis!  Done.  Bam.  Oh, and one more.  Call your favorite local Rolfer, if you don’t seem to be making much progress on your own.  She might be able to help you out.

If you’ve got plantar fasciitis, you know what a pain in the foot it is.  But do you know why?

Plantar fasciitis is an incredibly generic term: Your fascia is your connective tissue.  Rolfers can and will talk about fascia all day long as it is the focus of our work, so it’s probably best not to get us started.  You have fascia from your head to your toes, from your front to your back, and everywhere in between.  Every nerve has it’s own fascial wrapping.  So does every muscles fiber, every organ, and every bone.  That’s a LOT of fascia.  Your plantar surface is the bottom of your foot.  As you might imagine, there’s some extra fascia in the bottom of your foot ’cause it needs to hold the rest of you up all day, as well as maintain those pretty (and very useful) arches.  Your plantar fascia is simply all the fascia along the bottom of your foot, from toe to heel.

Plantar fasciitis, therefore, is simply an inflammation of the fascia in the bottom of the foot.  This fascia can be inflamed for a million different reasons and it seems that not many people care about any of them.  The only thing I hear people talk about is their plantar fasciitis, not WHY they might have it.  Which is fine…if you want to keep having plantar fasciitis.  But if you want it to go away, it might be helpful to know why it’s there in the first place.

There are some obvious places to look.  It’s common for us to look to an injury or an instance of overuse as the cause of inflammation.  And those are good places to start. Too much swing dancing?  Step on a giant rock?  That may have caused it.  From a Rolfing perspective, though, we have to keep in mind that all your fascia is connected.  And the plantar fascia specifically is connected to the fascia of your calves, which is connected to your hamstrings, through your glutes and lower back, to mid-back, to upper back and shoulders, through the back of your neck and all the way over your head, forming your skull cap of fascia.  And if there’s a problem in any of that fascia, you may see symptoms somewhere else along the train.

So, when dealing with plantar fasciitis, I may be working nowhere near your feet.  Do you get migraines?  What about low back or hip pain?  Are your calves tight and inflexible?  How’s your neck feeling?  Whiplash you suffered from a car accident ten years ago may lead to plantar fasciitis now.  Which may be confusing if you come in complaining about your feet and I work inside your mouth or around your ears.  That’s simply the crazy thing (well, one of them) about Rolfing.

This applies to pretty much anything in your body.  You may have noticed that no matter what you come in and report to be hurting, I’m probably going to work on at least one other area.  I may not even touch the area where you feel the pain.  As my favorite instructor, Ray says, “The good news is:  it’s all connected.  The bad news is:  it’s all connected.”  But please, if you came in with pain in your left elbow and want to know why I’m working on your right knee, just ask; I’m happy to explain the connections.  And if I don’t have a good answer, I promise to admit it if I’m making something up.