Modern humans tend to live very lopsided lives when it comes to sports, daily habits, how we sit for work and how we hold babies, purses, backpacks etc.
Many people are walking around with a pelvic or hip instability issue without even knowing it. This is because the human body is amazing at compensating. It will compensate and compensate, sometimes for years without any pain at all…until one day it can’t take any more, and that’s when we get a pain signal.
The list of possible injuries or pain patterns that can happen due to a hip instability pattern are so numerous we’d be here all day if I went into them all, but the big surprise is plantar fasciitis.
If you’ve tried all the typical routes or methods of eliminating plantar fasciitis and your pain persists, it could be due to an underlying hip or pelvic instability issue. (Click here to learn about the most common causes of plantar fasciitis).
The short story on this complex issue:
Due to one or more imbalances in the fascia of the legs, your pelvis can experience a tilt, shift or rotation (or some combination thereof). This means it could be rotated forward on one or both sides, tilted to the left or right or otherwise shifted out of alignment.
When this happens, it is my belief that your brain detects potential danger to the central nervous system and spine (which requires a neutral pelvis to be at optimal health), and recruits one or more muscles of the low back or hip to contract neurologically to bring you back into balance.
Often, it’s the gluteus medius that is recruited this way and when it is – that muscle is no longer able to be recruited for its normal duties.
What does the gluteus medius do?
Gluteus medius and minimus abduct the thigh when the leg is straight and during gait (walking or running) these two muscles function to support the body on one leg to prevent the pelvis from dropping to the opposite side.
With the hip flexed, gluteus medius and minimus internally rotate the thigh. With the hip extended, they externally rotate the thigh, or more accurately they act to prevent internal rotation. Without this action the knee migrates inward, creating stress on the structures of the hip, knee and foot.
As you can tell, gluteus medius (and minimus) are critical for hip stability in ALL kinds of everyday actions. If one or both of these muscles is no longer able to do its job, it has to be done by other muscles.
How glute inhibition or hip instability leads to plantar fasciitis:
If you do – first, you have to understand what it is and what’s causing it.
This issue is one of the most debilitating and least understood “injuries” a human being can experience.
I put “injuries” in quotations because (and this is why this issue seems to confound western medical science), there’s often nothing structurally wrong (visible to imaging machines or other diagnostic methods) to point to as the cause of pain.
There are no broken bones, nearby joints probably looks ok, and usually there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with the soft tissue either (other than inflammation), from a western medical standpoint. There might be a heel spur, or minor tearing of the plantar fascia itself – but this is often looked at in a vacuum as the cause and site of pain when it’s actually a symptom of something else.
Without knowing the cause of something it’s almost impossible to know the solution.
Any attempts to eliminate pain without first knowing the cause is like throwing darts at an unknown target in the dark! The chances of hitting the correct target are next to nil.
If you’re ready to say goodbye to plantar fasciitis and hello to happy feet, click here. If you want to understand it more first, keep reading.
What IS plantar fasciitis?
Traditionally, plantar fasciitis is described as “heel pain,” but people are often diagnosed (or self diagnose) with plantar fasciitis whether they have pain in the heel UNDER the calcanues (heel bone) on the bottom of the foot, on the inside or outside of the heel NOT on the bottom of the foot (so, below the inside or outside ankle), whether the pain is in the arches and sometimes PF can be classified as pain under the ball of the foot.
While these details may not matter for a diagnosis (and I am NOT in the business of diagnosing anyone), they sure as heck matter to figure out the solution. We’ll be talking more about the various kinds of PF pain in Part 2 of this 5-part series.
In the simplest terms, plantar fasciitis is “inflammation of the plantar fascia.”
Hmmmm…this doesn’t tell us much, does it?
While it doesn’t tell us much…it’s a start. The problem with most ‘diagnostics’ is, they stop here. But not us. We’re going to take this to its end point – or, root cause. We’re going to ask why like an annoying little kid who will not settle for anything less than the truth, until we get to the bottom of this! (Pun intended?! :P)
So, your foot hurts. And there’s inflammation present…
Why is the plantar fascia inflamed?
Ahhhh…by asking this question, now we can get somewhere!
The plantar fascia is inflamed because something (or several somethings) are irritating it. In order to understand plantar fasciitis, we have to understand at least a little about fascia. After all, it’s even in the name of this debilitating issue!
If you want a more comprehensive crash course on fascia, click here.
What is fascia?
Fascia, or connective tissue, coats every nerve ending and then wraps the whole nerve. It wraps every fibril of muscle tissue, every fiber of muscle, every muscle bundle and then every muscle group is wrapped in large tough sheets of the stuff, which come together and turn into tendons and ligaments, also fascia – just a denser version – which connects to our bones. Every bone is coated in a layer of fascia, as are all of our organs.
We have MORE of this fascia stuff than anything else in the body! And this fascial system is meant to be elastic, flexible and able to move with us.
All fascia has within it something called ground substance and the extracellular matrix (ECM), and it is this ground substance that gives fascia its spring because it contains a gel-like substance that keeps the fascia hydrated and our cells nourished.
The ECM is responsible for distributing force and tension throughout the fascial system so we don’t damage ourselves from one hit (it’s our SHOCK ABSORBER!)
BUT – and we’re about to get into what the heck this has to do with plantar fasciitis here in a second – with overuse, under use, age and other factors like trauma and injuries, the fascial system starts to get dehydrated and then brittle. It LOSES ITS SPRING. It also sticks to itself in knots or adhesions, pulling muscle fibers with it and pulling on or irritating attchements.
It is this combo of dehydrated and knotted up restricted fascia that creates pain and inflammation in the plantar fascia.
This is the topic of a future episode. For now, we’re sticking to the anatomical or physiological causes of PF pain.
Most of the time, plantar fasciitis pain is stemming from tightness and restriction in your calves and hamstrings. Sometimes it can come from fascial restrictions higher up the posterior chain or in the upper body like your traps, but those cases are rare in my experience and often indiciate a deeper underlying issue.
The most common pattern that falls into this category is a hip or pelvic instability problem. Going after the glute in this case though wouldn’t be the correct solution, because the glute isn’t the problem either, it’s another symptom of dysfunction! (Part 5 of this series is all about this hip instability issue, and I’ll break it down for you so no need to understand it right now!)
Bottom line is…your plantar fascia starts to get irritated and angry. WHY?
Something (or several things) UPSTREAM are starting PULL on the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia.
At the same time, if your entire lower leg compartment has fascia that is dehydrated and brittle, you’ve lost the ability to absorb and distribute force and tension or in other words you’ve lost your SHOCK ABSORPTION! And…
With EVERY step you take walking around, and especially running, there’s nowhere to distribute the impact – so it’s felt –
And now we have a scenario where all those tiny bones, tendons, ligaments and joints in your foot are bearing the weight and impact of your body and activities, when that job is SUPPOSED to be distributed throughout your entire lower body.
This is one reason why it can start to feel like you’re walking around on a bruise. In many ways this may be quite accurate, because the calcaneus bone and all the small tendons, ligaments and joints within your foot start to feel the brunt of impact from every step and over time may very well start to bruise.
Your body may give you a pain signal here, or it might not happen until the fascia in your foot ALSO loses its spring and if the plantar fascia becomes dehydrated, brittle AND overstretched it is now in danger of tearing. This is one reason people get heel spurs – the body is trying to throw something down to make up for the loss in plantar fascia spring/length/durability.
OR, you may get the pain signal simply due to fascial restrictions in the calves and hamstrings pulling on the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia.
At some point the body, which is extremely intelligent and doesn’t do ANYTHING without reason, isolates that area for healing via INFLAMMATION.
Guess what inflammation does? It puffs up an area and mimics that squishy gel like make up of ground substance!
The body is likely trying to rehydrate that area with fresh plasma and prevent you from using it because that could cause further damage.
Little do you know, because no one ever told you this, but YOU CAN REHYDRATE YOUR FASCIA and give your foot exactly what it needs to stop getting your attention with a horrible and debilitating pain signal.
Most of the time plantar fasciitis is dead simple.
Like – there’s a tack in your forehead? Let’s pull it out! BAM! Done. That simple.
Notice I didn’t say easy, I said simple – the process of getting out of pain involves effort, curiosity and patience, but if it took you years to get here and it only takes a week or two to get out of pain, I’d say that’s pretty great success!
Sometimes however, it can be more complicated. In Part II we’ll be going over the different variations of plantar fasciitis, and why this matters for getting out of pain.
If you’re suffering with plantar fasciitis and want to get out of pain for good, check out our brand new course by clicking the picture link below.
Break Up With Your PF™ - Say Goodbye to Plantar Fasciitis For Good!
This is a simple technique that will help your WHOLE body.
I’m pretty sure ALL of us could use this one!
If you have plantar fasciitis, heel pain, ankle mobility issues, big toe articulation problems or Achilles tendonitis then this is definitely a technique you’ll want to add to your mobility toolbox. Just make sure you’re taking care of the root issue first! For plantar fasciitis, heel pain and Achilles tendonitis – click here for my main technique that addresses these issues at the source.
As usual with Mobility Mastery techniques, this is NOT intended to be a massage for your feet! (Though your reward for doing the technique is massage-like 🙂 )
We are attempting to PIN and RELEASE the restricted fascia and any fascial adhesions on the bottom of the foot.
There are a BUNCH of tiny muscles down there.
The fascia that wraps each of those muscles along with the plantar fascia itself can get stuck to each other. All of that fascia can get dehydrated, brittle, inelastic and because of these things pain and all the “itis’s” can happen – plantar fasciitis, heel pain, tendonitis on the tops of the feet, big toe articulation problems, ankle mobility restriction, Achilles tendonitis…etc.
This can happen due to a variety of factors: if you’re a woman who wears high heels, it’s almost inevitable you will have one or more of the above issues eventually; if you work on your feet all day, especially if you’re not moving much but standing in place; if your body type, lifestyle, sports, habits etc have created fascial restrictions UPSTREAM, you may have PAIN here and you’ll need to find out if the plantar fascia is actually tight and restricted, or simply getting irritated and pulled on – or BOTH.
How to get the most out of this technique:
Make sure if you have pain on the bottoms of your feet or any of the issues listed above that you FIRST look for the root cause and go after THAT first – then come to this technique as a way to “comfort” what is hurting.
PLEASE USE A LACROSSE BALL! For the best possible result, a lacrosse ball is the single best tool. All other balls will NOT give you the same result.
If you don’t have a lacrosse ball and you’re desperate to try this immediately – use what you have and then get your booty to a sporting goods store ASAP! They only cost $6 (give or take). And then do it right 😉
Make sure the entire weight of your leg is resting on that ball before doing the technique.
Make sure your heel doesn’t drop down too much, nor your toes. Try to keep the weight of your leg directly over that spot you’re targeting.
Start near the ball of your foot and work your way towards the heel.
If you feel or hear “crunching” noises while opening your toes, you’re doing it RIGHT! That’s the feel and sound of your plantar fascia releasing.
If this SUCKS – you’re probably doing it right, and you can be sure your plantar fascia is restricted and needs help to relax.
If this doesn’t suck at all and you have pain in your feet – perhaps you didn’t find the right spot, OR – your plantar fascia may not be restricted at all, but is in pain because of something else that is. It could be your calf, your hamstring, glute or even upper body fascia. You’ll need to look for the root cause.
Try 3-4 spots with the technique, and then…
DON’T FORGET YOUR REWARD! After releasing all that fascia, roll your foot around on the ball for as long as you want. This usually feels AMAZING afterward. If you prefer a different kind of ball, a frozen waterbottle or rolling pin for this part – go for it. This is simply meant to be a FEEL GOOD endorphin releasing reward for your WHOLE body!
Speaking of your whole body – if you DON’T have pain in your feet, but you have pain ANYWHERE ELSE in your body and you are ON your feet all day – give this a try!
In fact, if you’re on your feet all day I HIGHLY recommend buying yourself a lacrosse ball to keep at work and doing this one daily, or several times a day. Your entire body will thank you!
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