Erin Stair, MD, MPH
Am I about to unveil a cure for plantar fasciitis?
Not really, but I can offer a tip that has helped me. I’ve struggled with plantar fasciitis off and on for years. I have really flat feet, arches that would make the beauty industry cringe, in addition to being a soccer player, Krav enthusiast and avid runner. When the bottoms of my feet hurt to the point of impacting my daily run, I’m miserable. Running is my therapy.
What is plantar fasciitis?
In simple terms, plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia, or connective tissue that connects from your heel to your toes. When the tissue is strained, tightened or damaged in some way, inflammation ensues. Since it’s an inflammatory process, swelling and pain are common symptoms. While fascia is connective tissue, recently there has been a lot more studies on the functioning of fascia. It’s actually quite complex, with metabolic, hormonal, lymphatic and sensory functions. My sister, a certified Myofascial Release Therapist, has told me that fascia can even store memories. Sometimes, when she’s working on a patient, those memories, some good, some traumatic, are brought to the surface, and people respond accordingly.
Back to the point of the blog…
My “cure” for plantar fasciitis is the bed of nails. In case you’ve never heard of it, I’ve attached a photo. The bed of nails is more accurately a meditation mat with tiny plastic needles, essentially an acupressure tool. My friend Josh sent it to me and claimed it worked great for meditation purposes. I have used it for meditation once or twice, and probably should use it more for that purpose, but where I find it benefits me most is for my plantar fasciitis.
Anyone who has suffered from plantar fasciitis will tell you that it hurts most in the morning, when you get out of bed and put your feet on the floor. Mine tends to flare up after a long run on hard surfaces, which is basically every decent running route in NYC. Many doctors have told me to wear insoles. I don’t, because I’m a recovering chronic ankle-sprainer, and I find having the surface of my feet as close to the ground as possible helps me navigate the terrain better and avoid ankle sprains. A physical therapist told me to roll my foot over a tennis ball. I’ve done this, but don’t get much relief. I’ve tried reflexology and massage and get some relief- depending on the strength of the masseuse, really. Someone even told me to try scraping a butter knife on the underside of my foot. Believe it or not, this has worked for me on occasion, but it doesn’t feel very smart or safe.
One day, keeping in mind the tenets of acupuncture and acupressure, I decided to try standing barefoot on my bed of nails. I’ll be honest: It hurts a lot at first. For your first time, I recommend not stepping on the bed of nails with your whole body weight. Hold onto a chair/table and lower gently onto the bed of nails, if only to alert your body to the feeling. That might be enough for some people. While I started out doing that, I find I get the greatest relief by standing, unsupported, with my whole body weight on the bed of nails. I often dig my heels into the bed of nails, or rock back and forth from the heel to the toes, and can feel the fascia loosening and breaking up. Yes, it hurts, but ( and people with plantar fasciitis will understand this), the pain is temporary and a welcome relief compared to the nagging pain of plantar fasciitis. During a plantar fasciitis flare up, I have trouble sensing things on the bottom of my feet. My feet feel bloated and heavy. I don’t understand why, but the bed of nails has improved the sensory function of the bottoms of my feet.
How is the bed of nails a cure for plantar fasciitis?
I don’t know for sure, as I’ve come up with this method on my own. The bed of nails may serve as a temporary myo-fascial release. Maybe it stimulates blood flow or breaks up restrictions. I don’t know why it works specifically, but I know it works for me. Oddly enough, now I crave the bed of nails when I have a plantar fasciitis flare up. My flare ups tend to get worse when I’m premenstrual, possibly due to the increased bloating/water retention in my feet, and on those days, I use the bed of nails around 4-5 times a day, maybe up to 5 minutes each time. I stand on one leg, do squats and sometimes various yoga poses. You don’t have to do that. As mentioned before, standing on it with support will be enough for many people. Afterwards, I lie on my back, facing a wall and with my butt against the wall, and with my legs stretched towards the sky. I stay there for around 20-30 minutes, as it helps promote blood flow from the feet towards the heart, and is considered a restorative pose in yoga. For added relaxation, add a ZENBand ( so it’s comfortable for you to lie & listen with your head on the floor) and listen to one of our custom-made Anxiety Relief ZENTones, that uses the science of sound to instill a state of calm and relaxation. We also have ones for pain here.
The dangers of wireless and wireless headphones: An interview with Dr. Belpoggi, who ran the largest animal study.
Grab a ZENBand for your next flight or meditation session!
Read my fast-paced novel, based on a provocative true story, Manic Kingdom.