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Plantar fasciitis, a common injury that affects 2 million people each year, is an inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of connective tissue that creates the arch of your foot. Albeit painful, you can run with plantar fasciitis. Your road to recovery will be shorter, though, with an informed approach to injury identification, diagnosis and treatment, as well as thoughtful lifestyle modifications to facilitate recovery and prevent recurrence.
Heel pain is the chief symptom of runners suffering from plantar fasciitis. According to John Vonhof, the author of “Fixing Your Feet,” this heel pain is most acute during the first steps after a time of rest, such as sleeping overnight or sitting immobile for a few hours. Many sufferers note that, after a few minutes of walking or running, the pain changes to a dull ache or none at all. Heel pain may also be felt while running uphill. Point tenderness, swelling, and redness at the heel or along the arch of the foot are other plantar fasciitis symptoms.
Seek a health care provider’s help for persistent heel pain that mimics plantar fasciitis symptoms. She will likely ask you about your running and symptoms history. Your health care provider will probably conduct a physical examination of your foot, and she may also ask you to walk or run. In a few cases, Your Orthopaedic Connection advises that a doctor may conduct image studies such as x-ray, ultrasound, or MRI to confirm a plantar fasciitis diagnosis.
During the most acute phase of your injury, most doctors advise rest from activities that cause heel pain, including running. Cycling and other cross training activities can serve as exercise outlets during this treatment phase. Ice your foot regularly. Some health care providers recommend rolling your foot over a frozen water bottle for 20 minutes, three times per day. Your doctor may recommend non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen. Many plantar fasciitis sufferers experience decreased pain upon walking in the morning if they sleep in a night splint, a commercially available device that keeps the foot in a position of flexion.
After the acute pain of plantar fasciitis recedes, begin a modified running regime. A wise return to running should involve short, slow runs on flat, soft surfaces so as to place little stress upon your plantar fascia. For example, try a 15 minute jog on a gravel path. If you experience no pain during your run or the 24 hours immediately following it, then you have modified your training in a way that allows you to both run and continue recovery. The amount of time it will take to return to your regular training will vary based upon the degree of your injury.
Plantar fasciitis has multiple causes, though many of them relate to flexibility and strength imbalances in hip and leg muscles. Engage yourself in a daily stretching routine, especially for your calf and foot muscles, says Tim Noakes, M.D., in “Lore of Running, 4th Edition.” Consider a weekly yoga class, which will be sure to increase flexibility throughout your body. A lower body strength training program will help you to re-strengthen soft tissue weakened through injury and restore overall strength. Plantar fasciitis is also caused by too much running, too soon. Use care to develop a training plan that allows ample time for both doing hard work and recovery from that work.