conley6.gif (2529 bytes)


Listen to your fascia


March 2013

Plantar fasciitis is a nightmare for those who want to be active. Sharp pain in the heels makes those first steps in the morning a challenge, and standing or walking for long periods of time can be almost unbearable.

But did you know that other areas of the body can be affected by fascia issues? That’s because we have a lot of this connective tissue — it encases muscles, organs and bones. Usually it glides smoothly, but it can thicken, become knotty and get inflamed.

The throracodorsal fascia in the lower back is one such trouble spot. Poor posture is usually to blame, according to Melissa Piper, a physical therapist at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare – Franklin. "It happens anytime you don’t have good abdominal stabilization — when there’s too much arch to the back," she explains.

Sometimes, the back is arched like a cat’s because a person bends forward with rounded shoulders. The other extreme — a concaved back due to a beer belly or pregnancy — can be just as bad.

Good, general stretching is recommended to keep the fascia working properly. Hydration also is important, Piper adds, and massage can be a big help.

"When we treat a muscle, we’re treating the fascia at the same time," says Piper.

For plantar fasciitis, the problem can start in the hips or calves. Stretching both the feet and legs is important. Orthotic inserts in the shoes can help. Severe problems can be treated in a clinic with a skin patch (powered by a 9-volt battery) that pushes medication right to the location of the pain. Newly developed patches for home use have a small internal battery that delivers pain treatment for 24 hours.

Fix your fascia

To keep your fascia working well, Melissa Piper suggests trying these exercises daily

To relax the back

Get on all fours on a carpet or yoga mat. Keeping your hands flat on the floor, gently rock back to sit on your heels. Keep the back level. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times.

To stretch the calves

Stand about 1-1/2 feet from a wall, with feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing straight ahead. Move one foot up about 6 inches and slightly bend the knee. Place hands on wall and slowly lean toward the wall, keeping your back heel flat on the floor and your back straight. When you feel a stretch in the back of the calf, hold for 30 seconds. Switch legs. Repeat 3-5 times.

To treat the plantar fascia

Sit in a straight-back chair, wearing socks or barefoot. Roll the sole of your foot over a tennis ball with a bit of pressure to massage, for five minutes once per day. For additional pain relief, use a frozen water bottle instead of a tennis ball.


This story ran in the March 2013 issue of: