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Fitness first - Is Plantar Fasciitis getting in the way of your game?

Football is a physical sport and even though players are highly physically trained, injuries are a common part of the game.

Every day we hear about a player who is out of action - and some have had their career threatened by an injury.

Plantar fasciitis is not the most serious injury you can develop, but it can certainly bring a halt to training, matches and, in extreme cases, even threaten a professional’s career.

The condition occurs when the long, flat ligament on the sole of the foot (the plantar fascia) stretches irregularly and develops small tears that cause the ligament to become inflamed.

The pain can be on the heel, arch and sole of the foot. Its affects are described as dull, aching or sharp, and the pain can be easily reproduced by flexing the toes upwards to tense the fascia.

This is a very common injury for athletes and in the USA alone there are a million cases a year just among football players.

Develops gradually

It usually develops gradually, starting with pain specifically on the inside of the heel, slowly spreading towards the sole of the foot causing the individual to limp when walking.

Heel pain accompanies physical activities and may also occur when taking the first steps after getting out of bed or after sitting for a long period of time.

Last year Graham Bayne, who was then playing for Dunfermline Athletic, was having trouble with plantar fasciitis.

While having intense physiotherapy the injury sometimes would go away for four weeks only to be back with a vengeance.

He was out for almost six months and in the end had to part ways with the club. Luckily he was able to return to his football career and now plays for Dundee.

Professional footballers have a very short career and are constantly under pressure to make as much money as they can before they retire from the sport.

It is unfortunate that because of that pressure they sometimes don’t take the appropriate time to fully recover from an injury that could can be resolved in a much shorter period of time.

With that in mind, I’ve listed below some advice on how to prevent and also treat plantar fasciitis.

Prevention and treatment

It is known that the biomechanics of the foot, ankle and leg can contribute to the symptoms of plantar fasciitis.

Usually it is found that the athlete 'over pronates, and turns the foot inwards when running or walking, which involves an excessive rolling of the inner arch of the foot, stressing the Achilles tendon.

Football boots that are worn out or that don’t have a cushioned sole and arch support will increase the risk of developing the condition, so make sure you’re wearing adequate trainers.

Another simple piece of advice to help prevention is to stretch the plantar fascia. Sitting down on the floor or in bed with your legs straight out in front of you, cross one leg over the other and pull your toes towards your shin.

You should hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and then repeat on the other leg.

Repeat five times on each leg. Research has shown that this stretch can be effective in preventing and reducing pain as it will stretch the Plantar Fascia, calf muscles and Achilles tendon, addressing the flexibility and range of motion in the foot.

Frozen food

You can also use a frozen can of food to stretch the fascia. First, make sure the can is frozen. Place it on the floor and then steady yourself by placing your hands on the wall.

Take your injured foot barefoot and roll it over the can starting at the heel of the foot working your way up towards the middle of the arch, repeating it at least 20 times.

Make sure you don’t use too much pressure on the can since this could injure your foot and cause the can to explode! You only want to feel the can stretching your foot, and the cold metal is also sure to help with the inflammation.

If you are already developing symptoms similar to plantar fasciitis, go and see a physiotherapist to confirm your suspicions. If the diagnosis is positive I would advise you supplement home care with a course of treatments of your choice.

There are many treatments around and if you have tried something in the past that has worked for you I would say stick to it!

It will assist and speed up recovery. Physiotherapy is often the first choice that comes to people’s minds when such injuries occur, but over the years I came across the Emmett Technique as a remarkable alternative to fix problems and prevent injuries.

Fantastic results

It isn’t widely known in professional football circles, yet it consistently delivers fantastic results when using it to treat sports injuries for professionals and enthusiasts alike.

A few months ago I was in the park having lunch with a friend who does a lot of sports, including running, military fitness and gym classes.

I noticed she was limping as we walked towards a bench and there she told me about her problematic foot which had developed plantar fasciitis.

I carried out a quick 10 minutes of Emmett Technique on her foot, she was surprised to find the pain subsided by around 80%, and on her way back to work she found she wasn’t limping anymore.

I told her to come and see me in clinic and gave her advice, and even though she did come to see me in clinic once she never came back and carried on exercising, trying to ignore the problem. As a result she’s had it for almost a year now and is delaying recovery which could have happened months ago.

That is a perfect example of what happens when you don’t listen to the signs your body is giving you, which leads me to my next piece of advice.

Respect your body

Rest! The inflamed ligament will not heal if you don’t completely stop the aggravating activity, so respect your body and give it time to heal.

If not, you may develop a chronic version of Plantar Fasciitis, which will take much longer to heal and will keep you out of action for an even longer period.

To keep your fitness levels you should still exercise but do activities that don’t involve running.

For instance, going to the gym to do some weights or rowing machine, or even having some boxing sessions with a personal trainer.

To aid inflammation use ice or apple cider vinegar on it. It is well known that ice is a natural anti-inflammatory. You should use a large ice pack that can cover the whole sole of your foot. Never apply ice cubes directly on skin, always wrap them in a towel if you don’t have access to an ice pack.

My opinion is 30 minutes on the dot will do. Any longer than that you risk burning your skin, and any less might not have the desired results.

Cider vinegar

For optimum results apply ice 2-3 times a day and continue for a few days even after the pain has subsided.

If there is swelling I would suggest applying apple cider vinegar instead of ice. It is said cider vinegar works nearly three times faster than ice.

It is a fantastic anti-inflammatory and is more effective at reducing swelling. Wet a towel with it but make sure you wring out any excess; wrap it around the foot and use some cling film to firmly hold it in place if needed.

You can leave it on for up to two hours so that it addresses the inflammation for a much longer period of time against the 30 minutes with ice. Use it no more than twice a day.

These suggestions are sure to help you prevent or deal with plantar fasciitis through complementary home care. But please remember these are only guidelines and if you don’t see any improvement in the symptoms you should seek professional help.

By Bruno de Jongh - Bowen and Shiatsu Practitioner

After completing his studies in Shiatsu massage and acquiring a degree in physiotherapy in Brazil, Bruno de Jongh came to England and embarked on a successful career as a fitness instructor, teaching in health clubs in London. After sometime Bruno discovered the Bowen and Emmett techniques which have proven to be valuable tools when treating conditions that previously have not responded well to conventional treatments. Bruno opened his own practice The Calm Blue Room in 2009 in Waterloo, London, and throughout his career has aided more than 600 people with a vast array of ailments and conditions, enabling them to recover a life full of energy, physical health and emotional well-being -

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