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Massage for Plantar Fasciitis - does it actually work?

THE PLANTAR FASCIITIS SELF-TREATMENT SERIES:

Yes, it does. Recent research has found that patients suffering with plantar fasciitis appeared to have superior recovery rates if their physiotherapy treatment included soft tissue release (massage) – not only of the plantar fascia, but also of other tight muscles in the legs.


The good news is that the current research further suggests that self-massage techniques are just as effective as massage done by a therapist. So, no need to break the bank! Here’s how you can do it in the comfort of your own home.

This article will show you:

  • Which muscles to massage as treatment for plantar fasciitis

  • How to massage the plantar fascia itself

It’s important to understand that massage alone will not cure your heel pain. It is only one part of the treatment plan. You can find more information about what treatments have been shown to be effective for plantar fasciitis here.


Massage for plantar fasciitis: Which muscles should be included?


All the muscles that run down the back of your legs are connected via thick layers of fascia and tendons. They are in turn connected to the plantar fascia via the Achilles tendon. Tight muscles further up the body can thus potentially cause more strain on the plantar fascia. You should therefore not only massage the plantar fascia but also the other muscles in the back of your legs.


Treatment for plantar fasciitis should include more than just massage and you may find better results if you combine the massage with plantar fasciitis stretches.


Massaging the glutes (your bum muscles)

Tightness in your gluteal muscles not only contribute to plantar fasciitis due to increasing the tension in the fascia, but also by holding on to your sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve runs through these muscles and when it’s not allowed to slide freely it can contribute to pain in the plantar fascia.



What you need:

I prefer to use a massage ball because it gives you better point pressure, but you can also use a foam roller.


Method:

Slowly roll over the gluteals while you sit sideways on the ball or roller. You can also just maintain the pressure on painful spots for 30 seconds before moving on. Do this once a day for 2 minutes.



Massaging the hamstrings

Your hamstrings attach onto your calf muscles which in turn is attached to the plantar fascia via the Achilles tendon. That’s why you should include massage for your hamstrings when you struggle with plantar fasciitis.



What you need:

I use a foam roller, but some of my patients prefer a firm ball such as a lacrosse or hockey ball.


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Method:

Place the foam roller under your thighs and slowly roll backwards and forwards. Make sure that you cover the whole length of the hamstrings from its origin in the buttock to its attachment at the knee. You can target different parts of the hamstring by rolling your body slightly to the sides.

Do this once a day for 2 minutes.



Massaging the calves

As mentioned above, your calf muscles attach directly to the plantar fascia via the Achilles tendon. Any treatment plan for plantar fasciitis should therefore include massage of the calf muscles.



What you need:

Use a foam roller or any firm massage ball.


Method:

You can use your opposite leg to apply pressure and make the massage more effective. Slowly roll backwards and forwards using your arms to push you. Make sure you cover the full length of the calf muscles from the knee to the Achilles tendon.

Do this once a day for 2 minutes.



Massaging the plantar fascia


A WORD OF CAUTION: It is not a good idea to massage the plantar fascia itself while it is in the acute phase (very painful phase) of plantar fasciitis, as you may make the pain worse. You should only massage it in the chronic phase, when the very acute pain has settled down a bit.



What you need:

You can buy several types of tools to massage the plantar fascia.


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Method:

Place the ball under your foot and gently roll it backwards and forwards while applying a downward pressure. Do not press too hard – it should be firm pressure, but not painful. You can cause yourself more pain and injury if you bruise your foot.


Dosage:

I suggest that you do it twice a day for two minutes.


  1. When you wake up in the morning, before you take your first step. This will not only help to decrease the pain in the mornings, but will also prevent the sudden overstretch that occurs when you suddenly put your weight on your foot after a night’s rest.

  2. At the end of the day when you’re done running around.This is the last in my series of four articles on how you can treat your plantar fasciitis yourself. Massage alone will not be enough to fix your plantar fascia pain. So if you’ve landed on this article first, please consider going back and reading the others as well. This will help you to find the best overall approach to fixing your plantar fasciitis.



This is the last in my series of four articles on how you can treat your plantar fasciitis yourself. Massage alone will not be enough to fix your plantar fascia pain. So if you’ve landed on this article first, please consider going back and reading the others as well. This will help you to find the best overall approach to fixing your plantar fasciitis.


Learn more:

Best wishes

Maryke


About the Author

Maryke Louw is a chartered physiotherapist with more than 15 years' experience and a Masters Degree in Sports Injury Management. Follow her on LinkedIn, ResearchGate, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.



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