Welcome to a new monthly feature: The AMR Traveling TriggerPoint™ Ultimate 6 Kit. We're so excited about it—and if you're injured, we're guessing you might be too.
Here’s the premise: Something on you—your Achilles Tendon, your lower back, your knee—is hurting significantly. You want and need to keep running, but you’re not sure that hurt-y part is going to let you. So you tell us about it, and we send you the AMR Traveling Ultimate 6 Kit, excellent and effective self-massage tools for runners. We’ll also hook you up with a TriggerPoint expert for a lesson in self-care and a customized program for your situation. You’ll have about a month to focus on relieving your injury. And then—here’s the fun part!—we’ll help you document your journey back to running at full strength.
Our first injured runner is Cyndie Pelto, 40, mom of two in Beaverton, Oregon, who has plantar fasciitis.
What it is: plantar fasciitis (PF), a bring-you-to-your-knees painful condition under the heel of one or both feet. Caused when plantar fascia, the ligament that connects your toes and heel, gets inflamed or irritated. Pain is most humbling when you step out of bed in the morning or stand after sitting for a long time.
On a scale of 1 (a hangnail) to 10 (hospitalization required), I would rate this injury a: 7, like a knife or very large nail is being driven into my heel. It’s a shooting pain, but it stays fairly localized on the bottom and sides of my heel.
What causes PF: Excessive stress to the arch of the foot; folks with high arches or flat feet tend to get it more frequently. Being overweight, middle-aged, or a job that keeps you on your feet a lot doesn’t do your plantar fascia any favors. A tight Achilles tendon or calf muscle can add to the strain.
It also comes on with running too many miles too quickly or too intensely; I had a bout of PF about 11 years ago, then ran my first marathon last October, and a half-marathon a week after that. I knew around mile 6 of the half-marathon that I’d way overdone it.
What PF feels like physically: Whenever I put weight on my feet, there’s sharp pain—my left more than my right, but both let me know they’re not happy. My heels actually feel better when I’m running: It hurts for the first mile, but when my feet get warmed up, the pain drops to a 2 or 3.
You might have PF if: You feel an intense pain in your heel or arch when you step out of bed in the morning. The pain will come and go during the day (if you’re lucky!), but by evening, the heel(s) of a PF sufferer is usually throbbing. If you're like me, it will probably hurt for a little as you warm up into a run, then the pain is minimal—until the run is over.
What and how to roll to help with PF: Releasing the inside, middle, and outside of your calves and quads with a foam roller or other TriggerPoint tool every day is key. (Here's a helpful video to show a few more techinques.) Targeting the bottom of your foot, as this video demonstrates, is also a great call.
Keeping your muscles loose and the fascia lengthened helps alleviate the tight, pulling sensation with every step. Even if you only have pain in one foot, treat both legs and feet to keep things balanced. Rolling through injured tissue is painful, and it’s really hard to do something to yourself that hurts, so let the pain act as a guide to where you need to localize the pressure. (Read: no pressure that makes your face into a perma-wince.) For me, it helps to have a distraction: I use the Ultimate 6 Kit every night while watching DVR’d episodes of the new “Tonight Show.” (Thank you, Jimmy Fallon!)
What else works physically for PF: Stretch your calf muscles frequently, like 4-5 times a day. Wear shoes with good arch support all day long; going barefoot or wearing flimsy flip flops is not giving your fascia the TLC they need to heal.
Acupuncture can also provide significant relief, especially if you find a practitioner who works with athletes. Slightly more pleasant than needles, deep-tissue massage, especially to glutes, hamstrings, calves, and feet, helps loosen tight, over-run muscles.
That said, the number one thing to do is this: Stop running and focus on healing the fascia. Sucks to read, but it’s what I came to realize. Give away any upcoming race numbers and step away from the road/trail/treadmill until the pain departs or at least drops to a 1 or 2.
How I coped mentally: While it’s been really (really!) tough to give up running cold turkey, the hardest part of PF has been losing my time with my BRFs (Best Running Friends). Running nowhere in the pool or riding nowhere on the bike trainer doesn’t give the same soul-affirming satisfaction or quality girlfriend-gab time. During my running hiatus, I am virtually cheering on my BRFs and watching their training. I want to join them, of course, but until then I will embrace a few new training regimens and be proud of my girlfriends’ accomplishments. And plan a lot more girls’ nights out.
How I’ll avoid PF in the future: Once it’s (finally) gone, PF can be firmly in my rearview mirror if I continue to focus on keeping things loose and easy. Constant stretching and icing will be de rigeur for many years to come. So will TriggerPoint Performance Therapy products, like the FootBaller and TP Massage Ball, because they help me reach places a foam roller can’t. Finally, when I resume running, I will run slowly (promise!), with minimal miles and lots of walk breaks. My third season of coaching Girls on the Run just kicked off, and I’m looking forward to “wogging” around the track as I get to know my new team.
Anything we missed? How did you cope, both mentally and physically, with a bout of PF that is (finger crossed) in your past?
And do you have an injury that could benefit from the AMR Traveling Ultimate 6 Kit? Email us at runmother [at] gmail [dot] com and we’ll see if the Kit can make a stop at your mother runner house.