This past weekend I ran a half marathon one week after running a full 26.2 mile race. The full marathon left me we a severe acute case of plantar fasciitis, or more specifically an abductor hallucis muscle strain. There were some events that led up to this quick foot injury of mine, but it really became a significant issue at mile 13 of the marathon. Each step produced a piercing burning pain running through my arch. I did my best to not alter my gait as I did not want to create an overuse injury elsewhere on my leg. I missed my goal by about 7 minutes and was forced to wear a cam walker the following several days to avoid limping. I took the next 7 days off from running which helped tremendously. (Stay tuned for a blog post about the myths of tapering and does it matter how much you run in the days leading up to a race.)
The day prior to the half marathon I was still experiencing tightness and pain in my arch. I had no intentions of setting a PR for my half marathon, but wanted to run it comfortably with my wife and not have my foot hurt. The right thing to do would have been to not run. But is that really ever an option? Worst case scenario I would either stop or prolong my foot’s recovery. I decided to try massaging my arch with a foot roller from Thera-Band. Deep tissue massage or myofascial release has been shown to reduce pain from plantar fasciitis as well as increase flexibility. 1,2 Flexibility may be hindered for a number of reasons, one of which is fascial restrictions. Fascia is connective tissue that surrounds muscles, nerves, blood vessels and connects structures of the body. Fascia can become restricted due to injury, disease, inactivity, or inflammation. These restrictions can decrease flexibility, strength, endurance, motor coordination and lead to high amounts of physical pain.
I used the foot roller periodically anywhere from 5 minute to 15 minutes several time throughout the day on Saturday and by the end of the day I was walking without pain. The relief I experienced was rather impressive. Being that I don’t incorporate the use of the of deep tissue massage for plantar fasciitis in my practice, I decided to review the current literature. Below are two articles you may benefit from reading, but to summarize, there are physiologic benefits that result in both healing and pain relief from deep tissue massage of injured muscle and tendon.
So back to the half marathon. I was able to run with minimal pain to my foot and had no issues in the subsequent days that followed. How do I explain this? Simply put, the muscle spasms to protect itself during injury, and by massaging it and the deep fascial tissue plains, the pain spasm-cycle is reduced.
At approximately $13, the Thera-Band foot roller achieves this effect rather well. I’ve seen the effects of overzealous massage by therapists and harder rolling pins that do nothing more then create more pain and inflammation. This foot roller is soft, yet firm enough to produce a comfortable therapeutic effect. I highly recommend it.
Thera-Band® Foot Roller – $13.49
1. Renan-Ordine R, Alburquerque-Sendín F, de Souza DP, Cleland JA, Fernández-de-Las-Peñas C. Effectiveness of myofascial trigger point manual therapy combined with a self-stretching protocol for the management of plantar heel pain: a randomized controlled trial. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2011 Feb;41(2):43-50. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2011.3504. Epub 2011 Jan 31.
2. Sullivan KM, Silvey DB, Button DC, Behm DG. Roller-massager application to the hamstrings increases sit-and-reach range of motion within five to ten seconds without performance impairments. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2013 Jun;8(3):228-36.