Chan, a keen hiker and runner, is worried.
Every morning when he gets up and steps on the floor, he experiences excruciating pain that will not go away until he takes a few more steps.
After working in front of the computer for hours, his heels also ache when he stands up. His condition is diagnosed as plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fascia is a broad band of ligaments that spans between calcaneal tubercle and phalanges of the toes. It is a shock absorber that can bear the entire body’s weight.
Plantar fasciitis is also known as jogger’s heel. Common symptoms include sharp pain upon getting off the bed and standing, especially when making the first few steps.
The condition usually occurs among middle-aged people whose tendons are worn out and subcutaneous fat becomes thinner. Carrying heavy objects, prolonged walking and standing will eventually leave the plantar fascia the sole structure that supports the entire body weight, leading to overstraining and chronic inflammation.
People with flat foot, hollow foot, deformed or overstrained plantar muscles, and those who wear high heels are more likely to develop plantar fasciitis.
Apart from medical treatment, physical therapy such as thermotherapy, ultrasound therapy, shockwave therapy and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy can also cure inflammation and alleviate pain.
Patients should do stretching and strengthening exercises regularly to empower foot muscles. They should evaluate and re-adjust their lifestyle and working habits. Taking ample rest and using proper shoe insoles are also ways to minimize the pain.
Here are some simple foot and leg exercises and health care tips:
1. To stretch, push the wall with two hands while straightening the aching leg with the heel on the floor. Bend the other leg a little and tilt the body forward until the calf muscle is stretched. Hold for ten minutes. Repeat 15 to 20 times each day.
2. Sit on a chair, place a volleyball under the arch of the foot, roll and massage for five to ten minutes each day.
3. Soak the feet in warm water or place a heat patch on the heel every day for five to ten minutes.
4. Place the foot on a towel, curl the forefoot and lift the arch of the foot. Repeat 10 to 12 times.
5. Wear proper shoes and shoe insoles. Avoid wearing high heels.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 27
Translation by John Chui
[Chinese version 中文版]
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