Plantar Fasciitis — A Thoughtful Journey to a Personal Cure
What starts with a “P” and ends with a pain in the heel? That’s right, plantar fasciitis. Vanna, would you turn the letters, please? Plantar fasciitis is one of those annoying but ephemeral complaints. After appearing without notice, it can last for days or months, like an allergy to an unknown substance. Volumes have been written on the subject, remedies put forward, but no “cure” has hit social media.
Being both a teacher and a writer, I tend to sit for many hours at a desk, prepping, grading, or tapping out page after page of material for a chapter, an article, a short story, or book. A sedentary work life means that a brisk walk or workout on the treadmill provides a necessary balance. Yet, in the past, walking sometimes became a painful exercise. Unexpectedly, my heal wouldn’t rise and fall with ease. Instead, it felt as if the tendon running from heel to arch had been shortened overnight. On waking or rising, I’d hobble around like Peg Leg Pete. I wasn’t crippled, except for a quarter hour at various times during the day. I wondered if I was a “medical mystery”, but frankly, didn’t devote too much thought to the issue.
Several years ago, this phantom disability reappeared more vehemently than usual. I decided to go to the doctor. After describing the symptoms and investigating the heels in question, he suggested ice packs, stretches, and possibly orthotics. Religiously, I applied the ice and did the stretches, but saw no relief. Financially and emotionally, I wasn’t ready to spend hundreds of dollars on orthotics. Those pieces of molded plastic would assign too much import to a relatively small, though painful, inconvenience. I was ready to consign this new ailment to “aging”.
One weekend morning, I walked to my university office, wearing shorts instead of my usual professional garb. Two hours of grading later, the backs of my thighs were wrinkled and achy. I stood up, and on taking a few steps toward the door, noticed my heels were hurting, again.
I looked back at the office chair, checked the rippled reddening of my thighs, and stopped! Bells went off. They clanged. Thighs, arteries, blood flow, constriction, …plantar fasciitis. Could it be that the exercise wasn’t the problem, but the sitting was? Certain chairs press more tightly against the backs of the thighs than others do. The heel and foot might have a reduced blood supply, hence the pain that disappears on rising and with movement. Perhaps I needed either another chair or…(drum roll) …a footstool! Since the desk chair was otherwise very comfortable and ergonomic, a footstool was purchased and placed beneath the desk. Though I have no scientific evidence to prove this “cure”, the fasciitis was completely gone the week. When it returned a couple of times in different office environments, I just put my feet up.