Massage for Heel Pain
With a little know-how and a few easy techniques for solo massage or partner massage, you can master this quick remedy for heel pain. All you’ll need to get started is a little baby oil or other lubricant, and the information on this page!
Massage as a Quick Home Remedy for Heel Pain
While massaging the bottom of your foot is not a permanent treatment option for plantar fasciitis, it can help you quickly relieve pain you are experiencing in the short-term, and it is more effective than simply resting your feet.
Plantar fasciitis massage is a simple and convenient pain-relief tool, since it can be performed almost anywhere, any time you are experiencing heel pain, with your hands, a massage ball, or even household items like water bottles.
The Benefits of Self Massage for Plantar Fasciitis
There’s a reason your natural response to many types of pain is to rub the area! We instinctively know that massage can help temporarily relieve all kinds of aches and pains.
Heel pain from plantar fasciitis is no exception. By rubbing the heel, arch, and surrounding areas, you can stimulate blood flow, 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.
How to Massage the Plantar Fascia and Heel
First things first: Find somewhere you can comfortably sit while holding your foot with both hands.
Your main goal is to apply as much pressure as possible, without causing additional pain! If any type of pressure is painful for you, that’s okay. There are plenty of holistic, easy pain-relief methods for plantar fasciitis!
In general, you’ll want to focus your heel pain massage on the base of your heel, where your plantar fascia ligament meets your heel bone, and massage in a circular motion with your thumbs. 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.
Tips for Successful Plantar Fasciitis Massage
For the most effective plantar fasciitis massage, keep the following tips in mind!
Keep Basic Massage Supplies on Hand
For a basic heel massage, the only thing you absolutely need is a comfortable place to sit that allows you to reach your feet easily.
If you have time (and paper towels or a washcloth handy) you’ll also want to grab some 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 little, just a pea-sized amount for one foot.)
Try Using Simple Massage Aides
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 (more on specific techniques for these tools below!). These tools can help you target pressure more effectively and get a more even massage than is possible with your own hands.
Stop, Switch it Up, or Speak Up if You Feel Pain
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. Massage should not cause you additional pain, but should quickly relieve the pressure and pain in your plantar fascia ligament. If you do experience pain try massaging more gently, or consider a different method of home treatment for heel pain.
Don’t Overdo It
In general, most massages should last between 5-15 minutes at a time. More isn’t necessarily better, and can actually inflame the muscles and tendons in the foot! Give yourself some time between massages, but don’t be afraid to massage your feet multiple times throughout the day.
As with any form of treatment, keep your doctors in the loop before starting a regimen of massage!
Foot Massage Techniques for Heel Pain
The technique you use for plantar fasciitis massage will depend on your preference, your pain level, which tools you have handy, and whether you are massaging your own heels or working with a partner.
Solo Foot Massage Techniques
These simple, effective techniques can be used to massage your own feet at home, while watching TV, or on a break at work.
Massaging with your hands:
Start at the base of your heel where your plantar fascia ligament connects with your heel bone, and massage in a circular motion with your thumbs in smooth, even movements. Then apply gradual pressure lengthwise, along the plantar fascia, starting from the ball of your foot down to the heel bone. You can also use your thumbs to make steady circular motions along the fascia.
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!
To begin, 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 and positioning!
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.
Use Massage in Tandem with More Permanent Solutions
While massage feels great and can be an effective way to deal with heel pain, it’s important to remember that any pain relief you may experience from heel pain massage is temporary. 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.