Video Tips: Eliminate Foot Pain, Plantar Fasciitis, and Heel Pain

Plantar fasciitis begins in the center of your body and works its way out to the periphery.

In this post I described the Clinical Somatic approach to plantar fasciitis.  It’s not simply a condition of the feet, but a lack of control in the muscles of the lower leg as well. Let’s recap the steps to eliminating plantarfasciitis (and other general pain in your feet):

  • Determine whether or not you have imbalances in the large muscles of your core: the back, waist, abdominal muscles. (Scroll down on this blog post for an awareness exercise that will help you.) Remember: accidents, injuries and stress can cause Sensory Motor Amnesia, which alters your sensory awareness of how you stand, walk, and move.
  • Begin learning how to relieve muscle pain and regain your sense of self-awareness. Restoring muscle control in the center of the body allows the periphery – the feet, knees and lower legs, to move more easily.
  • Here are some basic movements that will begin to teach you to release the muscles of the core for more ease of movement. A hiked hip or twisted pelvis can result in a leg length discrepancy, an altered gait and lower leg muscles that work too hard. The most common pattern of muscular contraction with plantar fasciitis involves tight gluteal muscles, a tight lower back on the same side as the painful foot, and tight lower leg muscles. In this post are links to several movements that will to slowly reverse some of the painful muscular tightness that adversely affects one’s gait and contributes to plantar fasciitis.
  • Wear thinner footwear (or go barefoot, if possible). Lems Shoes and SoftStarShoes are terrific and comfortable shoes. Read this article about shoes, in which orthopedist Philip Lewin describes how there is a sensory foot/body, foot/brain connection vital to body stability, equilibrium, and gait.
  • Learn to stand straight  in a relaxed, tall posture.
  • Lastly, try the movements on this video to directly release the muscles of the lower leg. The best way to approach muscle pain is to release muscle imbalance in the center of the body first and then release the muscles of the lower leg for easy, smooth movement.  If you attempt to fix your pain by addressing just one area of the body it often doesn’t work for the long term – just like attempting to spot reduce those thighs (or buttocks or belly).

Stretching does not eliminate pain. Pandiculation is more effective and safer than stretching.

The technique I demonstrate in this video is called pandiculation. It is not stretching! Stretching is passive and can cause muscles to become tighter. Pandiculation is active and teaches muscles to move more efficiently. It resets the brain’s sensation and control of muscles and movement and is the most rapid and effective way to reverse chronic pain. Stretching is passive and does not reeducate muscles that have learned to stay tight due to overuse, stress reflexes or accidents. If you want more efficient muscles that can be recruited rapidly, learn to pandiculate.

 

Click here for my easy-to-follow instructional DVDs.

Labral Tears – Surgery or Not?

Releasing painful muscles is the first step in hip pain relief.

In my last post I wrote about chronic hip pain, what is counterproductive for it, and what works from my perspective as a Hanna Somatic Educator,

  • Strengthening painful hip muscles can cause further pain or injury.
  • Learning to relax the muscles of the hip joint and the compensatory full body pattern of contraction in which the muscles are stuck can provide long lasting pain relief, relaxed hip joints, and balanced movement.
  • Understanding Sensory Motor Amnesia and the Trauma Reflex, the root cause of chronic hip pain, will help you understand how to intelligently regain pain-free movement of the hip.

Exercises such as the “clam shell” or “butterfly,” and lateral leg lifts only serve to tighten the hip muscles even more, making it more difficult to move the hip. Often they create more pain, not less. Sitting with the soles of the feet together and pushing the knees out to stretch out the inner thighs can cause tight adductors to contract back against the force of the stretch. Even psoas stretches performed in isolation, can induce the stretch reflex, causing muscles to tighten back against the stretch. This further reduces the amount of control your brain has over your muscles.

Muscles that the brain cannot fully contract nor fully release are muscles that cause pain.

  • Address the pattern of contraction, not the individual muscles.
  • Pandiculation is the most effective way of regaining muscle function, improving movement and resetting muscle length. When you contract a muscle first, then lengthen and relax it you address muscle function at the level of the nervous system.

I hope some of you tried a few of the Hanna Somatic Exercises I included in my last post. Here is a wonderful variation of one of my favorite Somatic exercises: the Steeple Twist. This variation, made by Charlie Murdach (a Hanna Somatic Educator and Feldenkrais practitioner) shows how differentiating movements with the hips creates improved overall movement. Remember to go slowly and only as far as is comfortable. “Micro-movements” are perfectly fine!

All these movements are a good beginning to learning to relax the muscles involved in the “trauma reflex.”

Improved body awareness and muscle control is crucial when you have structural damage.

If you know that you are injured, but your doctor tells you it’s nothing to worry about, then it’s critically important to focus your attention on how your brain and muscles are compensating to deal with the injury (Sensory Motor Amnesia), and how that is changing the way in which you move. Unconscious and habituated functional problems left unchecked can, over the years, result in structural damage.

Do you have to be A-Rod to get a good doctor?

About a year ago I finally convinced my doctor to give me an X-ray on my hip. I had intermittent hip pain that I knew intuitively wasn’t merely a functional issue.  The X-ray showed a tumor on my hip and an MRI confirmed a tumor, the result of two labral tears. My surgeon, a well known sports medicine doctor here in New Jersey, took time to show me my results: labral tears, osteoarthritis, and a tumor. He told me that, “there’s just not enough science out there about labral tears to go ahead and do the surgery.”

Unrepaired labral tears could create the need for a hip replacement in years to come.

Before my appointment was over, I asked my doctor if he thought that not repairing the tear in my hip soon would set me up for a full hip replacement in the future, due to compensation over time. His reply: “Yes, that just might be the case.”

As I said in my first post about hip pain, it didn’t take Alex Rodriguez’s doctors long to figure out that if the Yankees were going to get their star player back on the field, earning his millions and hitting home runs, labral tear surgery was a must. ASAP. Why was there no absence of scientific data there?

So where does this leave the rest of us?

Recovery from labral tear surgery is no walk in the park, especially if you have no addressed the Trauma Reflex that got you there in the first place; it can’t be solved by surgery. Surgery helps to repair the structural damage (which is wonderful), but it doesn’t address the Sensory Motor Amnesia that alters movement in the first place.

The winning combination: Surgery + skilled physical therapy + Hanna Somatic Education = focus on regaining full functioning of the body as an integrated whole

While the jury’s not out about what route I will have the option to take, improving my own sensory motor system and paying attention to my daily movement habits is critical to create long-lasting pain relief.

 

Eliminate Heel Pain and Plantar Fasciitis with Hanna Somatic Exercises

Plantar fasciitis and heel pain affects approximately 2 million people a year in the United States. People stretch, ice, foam roll, get acupuncture, and wear night splints and orthotics.

This article from PubMed Health is reflective of the medical practice’s current view on plantar fasciitis, pain in the connective tissue of the bottom of the foot. The medical field believes that the only way to treat it is to address only the problem area of pain, rather than taking into consideration one’s daily movement habits as a potential contributing factor to this condition.

Plantar fasciitis is the result of overly contracted muscles of the lower leg, and  an imbalance in the somatic center.

As a Clinical Somatic Educator, I teach people to eliminate chronic muscle pain by restoring their brain’s control of muscles and movement. From my clinical  experience, most heel and foot pain, including plantar fasciitis, is the result of  improper weight bearing, which originates in the muscles of the center of the body, adversely affecting one’s gait. It’s another classic example of Sensory Motor Amnesia.

The most common pattern of muscular dysfunction responsible for plantar fasciitis is an habituated  Trauma Reflex pattern in the center of the body. This occurs due to compensation from an accident or injury, or repetitive one-sided work (like holding a baby on one’s hip – also a contributor to sciatica). It looks like my client in the photo at right.

Notice how this client’s right hip is higher than the left, and his weight is mostly on his left foot. His pelvis is slightly rotated, causing unequal leg length discrepancy. The back muscles on the left side of his body are tighter than on the right. This full body pattern causes the muscles of the lower leg (which help to move the foot) to adapt to receiving unbalanced weight.

The most effective method to long-term relief from plantar fasciitis is Hanna Somatic Education.

  • Become aware of the imbalance in the center of your body so you can learn to release this pattern and regain symmetry and balance in those muscles.
  • Learn to release the overly contracted muscles of the lower leg and feet. Muscles that do not function properly can only improve their function through movement. This is why passive therapies (trigger point, massage, stretching, etc.) for leg and foot pain do not work in the long term.
  • Become aware of your gait. Do you heel strike? Do you scuff your feet? Are your hips stiff when you walk? Movement in the center of your body affects the movement at the periphery of your body; a tight center will make your feet will suffer when you walk.
  • Reverse a gait imbalance to help prevent plantar fasciitis from returning.

Once the back, waist muscles and hips are relaxed and balanced, (and your gait is smooth and even), plantarfascitis, foot, heel, and lower leg disappear rapidly.

A client came to me with severe plantar fasciitis. I saw her for one clinical Somatics session. She learned to release and rebalance the muscles of her back and waist and become more aware of her walk. She also learned five easy, somatic movements to do every day to reinforce her progress. She sent me this email several weeks later:

I’m doing very well, was VERY diligent about doing the exercises and felt terrific in doing so, the results were great. I’ve fallen off the wagon a bit since returning from vacation but am working towards starting up again on a regular basis. The plantar fasciitis is nearly gone, I have very few symptoms now and can give credit to the exercises, walking and sitting differently, and going without shoes as often as possible… Seeing the wonderful results has encourage me to move ahead with an additional session!

Learning to restore somatic awareness and brain control of your muscles is the first step to eliminating not only plantar fasciitis, but other painful conditions, such as sciatica, back, neck, shoulder pain, TMD/TMJ, frozen shoulder, hip and knee pain and tension headaches. Visit the Essential Somatics® store here.