Not only does massage feel great–it’s a great way to temporarily relieve heel pain from plantar fasciitis.
With a little know-how and a few easy techniques, you can learn to to do self massage on your own feet, or with a partner. All you’ll need to get started is a little baby oil or other lubricant and the information in this blog post!
The Benefits of Self Massage for Plantar Fasciitis
Your natural response to many types of pain is to rub the area. Why? Because we instinctively know that massage can help relieve aches and pains.
Heel pain from plantar fasciitis is no exception. By rubbing the heel, arch, and surrounding areas, you can stimulate blood flow to the area, improve circulation, break down adhesions and scarring, temporarily diminish the pain signals from nerve endings, and stretch and loosen tight muscles and tendons that contribute to plantar fasciitis.
Supplies You’ll Need for a Heel Pain Massage
All you’ll need to get started massaging your feet and heels is a comfortable place to sit that allows you to reach your feet easily. You’ll also need baby oil or another lubricant that can glide easily over the surface of your skin. This lubricant will help you massage in a smooth, controlled motion. You’ll only need a pea-sized amount for one foot. Too much will turn into a gloppy mess and may cause too much slipping and sliding.
You’ll also want to keep a few paper towels handy, so you don’t have to walk on slippery, oily feet.
If you’re doing self massage, you may consider using an aide like a frozen water bottle, rolling pin, golf ball, or special Massage Ball. These tools can help you target pressure more effectively and get a more even massage than is possible with your own hands.
Solo Foot Massage Techniques
There are several simple, effective techniques you can use to massage your own feet at home, or on a break at work. As you massage, apply as much pressure as you comfortably can–but never to the point of pain. Before you dive into a massage, spend a couple of minutes warming up the oil and rubbing the entire surface of your foot using smooth movements.
Massaging with your hands:
Focus on the base of your heel where your plantar fascia ligament meets the heel bone, and massage in a circular motion with your thumbs in smooth, even movements. You can also apply pressure and massage lengthwise along the plantar fascia ligament from the ball of your foot down to the base of the heel bone.
Using a golf ball, tennis ball, or water bottle
Most of us have one of these handy tools lying around the house. To massage your feet with a ball or water bottle, sit in a chair with your feet facing forward. Next, roll your foot from the ball of your foot to the heel, applying as much pressure as you can. You can also try using a frozen water bottle, for the added benefit of soothing cold and to reduce inflammation!
Using a Massage Ball
A Massage Ball is similar to the tools mentioned above that help with self massage, with the added benefits of being easy to clean, and easy to slip into a bag or purse. A Massage Ball also has a bit of give to it that will allow you to easily apply different levels of pressure while you roll it.
Foot Massage Techniques with a Partner
If you have a spouse, partner, or friend who is willing to massage your feet, there are a number of easy-to-learn techniques they can use. You’ll find that many are the same techniques used by professionals who specialize in sports medicine!
Have your partner sit facing you, in a position that allows him or her to support your foot on a cushion or other surface while not actively massaging (feet and legs are heavy!).
Knuckle or thumb massage:
After warming up, have your partner use their knuckles or thumbs to move in small smooth circles along the bottom of your foot. Make sure to communicate about pressure level!
Top strokes with fingers:
While cupping your heel in the base of one hand, have your partner use the tips of their fingers to apply light pressure as they stroke the top and sides of your feet, forward and back. Remember, it’s helpful to massage areas that surround the heel and fascia too, since muscles and ligaments in the foot are interconnected!
Deep-pressure hand massage:
Have your partner use the heel of their hand to apply steady pressure, moving from the ball of the foot to the heel, and back again.
Rocking heel massage:
Lay on your back with your partner facing you. Have your partner use one hand to hold the upper part of your foot (the toes and the ball of your foot), while cupping your heel in their hand. Have your partner rock your heel gently from side to side, while massaging the heel with the thumb that is cupping it.
Lie on your back with your partner facing you and one leg raised so that your knee and leg form a 90 degree angle. Have your partner place their hands facing opposite directions then apply gentle pressure and twist each hand, as if wringing out a wet washcloth. Have you partner move their hands over different parts of each foot, including ball, instep, and arch, while performing the same motion.
Have you partner hold your toes and ball of your foot with one hand while supporting your heel with the other. While gently pulling the toes and ball of your foot toward your shin bone (dorsiflexion), have your partner use their thumbs to apply gentle pressure up and down your arch. Stay in good communication during this stretch, since it can be painful if too much pressure is applied.
Tips for Successful Plantar Fasciitis Massage
While massage isn’t a permanent treatment and will relieve pain only temporarily, it is more effective than simply resting your heel! Massage can be performed any time of the day, while you are watching TV, first thing in the morning, or during a break at work.
No matter which massage techniques you choose to use, make sure to apply pressure that is firm but not painful. If massage is painful for you, try applying less pressure, or consider another pain relief method.
When massaging with a partner, make sure you feel comfortable speaking up if the pressure is too great or if a particular motion is causing you pain instead of relieving it. In general, most massages should be performed for between 5-15 minutes at a time.
As with any form of treatment, keep your doctors in the loop before starting a regimen of massage!
Because any pain relief you may experience from heel pain massage is temporary, it’s also important to treat the underlying cause of your plantar fasciitis by wearing supportive footwear and orthotic inserts, maintaining a healthy weight, stretching your feet and legs, and resting as needed.