Ice Bottle Massage for Plantar Fasciitis

A physical therapy technique you can perform at home

An ice bottle massage is a way to manage plantar fasciitis at home. Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition that develops when the tough band of tissue on the bottom of your foot, called the plantar fascia, becomes inflamed. Plantar fasciitis may occur as a result of high heels, high arches, fallen arches, or repetitive strain on the foot.

The ice bottle massage works by alleviating the inflammation that contributes to foot pain and swelling. It allows you to ice the foot for an extended period of time while massaging taut and constricted tissues.

Managing Plantar Fasciitis

Before a treatment plan can be formulated, you should undergo a thorough examination by a doctor or physical therapist to determine the cause of your foot pain.

Even though the signs of plantar fasciitis pretty self-evident, there are other foot conditions with similar symptoms, including a heel fracture, heel bursitis, or heel contusion. The correct diagnosis directs the correct treatment.

The treatment of plantar fasciitis typically involves:

Surgery is only considered in severe cases. Before medications and orthotics are considered, doctors will typically recommend conservative, non-drug therapies aimed at reducing the inflammation that drives the disease.

Ice packs and cold compresses are an ideal way to do this. Also known as cold therapy, the application of ice reduces the blood flow to the affected area by shrinking blood vessels beneath the skin.

By doing so, the swelling decreases along with the inflammatory proteins, called cytokines, that spur inflammation. Icing the foot also a numbs the nerve endings just below the skin, alleviating pain.

The problem with ice packs is that you either have to hold them to your foot with your legs crossed or rub your foot over them while they are on the floor. Both work okay but can be awkward and cumbersome if you have to do it on an ongoing basis.

An ice bottle massage is a simple yet smart solution that not only ices swollen tissues but gently stretches the plantar fascia.

How to Do Ice Bottle Massage

All you need to do an ice bottle massage is a discarded beverage bottle, some water, and a towel.

Choose a 12-ounce or 20-ounce disposable bottle that conforms to the curve of your foot. If your condition is especially severe, a 32-ounce bottle may work. Anything larger will do little to stretch the constricted tissues.

To perform the ice bottle massage:

  1. Fill the bottle three-quarters full with tap water.
  2. Put the bottle in your freezer without the cap. If the cap is left on, the bottle can contort as the ice expands.
  3. Place the bottle in the freezer for several hours or overnight. Save the cap for later.
  4. Once the water is frozen solid, put the cap back on.
  5. Place a towel on the floor in front of a straight back chair. Avoid extra-soft chairs that you can sink into because you'll be less able to manipulate your foot.
  6. Sit in the chair, and place the frozen water bottle on its side on top of the towel.
  7. Slowly roll your foot over the water bottle, pressing gently into the bottle to massage the plantar fascia.
  8. As you roll the bottle to the ball of your foot, lift your heel and give your inner sole a good, long stretch.
  9. As you roll the bottle back to your heel, point your toe downward to stretch the top of your foot.
  10. Continue for 10 to 15 minutes several times a day. Never go longer than 20 minutes as this can led to frostbite.
  11. Put the bottle back in the freezer until you need it again.

    Other Tips

    Once the inflammation is under control, you can improve the flexibility of your foot by doing routine exercises. The plantar fascia stretch and towel calf stretch are two simple yet effective ways to improve the flexibility and strength of not only the inner sole but the ankle and calf as well. After performing the exercises, you can temper the inflammation with an ice bottle massage.

    Poor foot position can also contribute to plantar fasciitis. It often helps to ask your physical therapist or podiatrist to do a foot and walking analysis. By looking at your gait and the position of your foot, the therapist or doctor may be able to recommend the right orthotic to keep your foot in the correct position while walking, running, or standing.

    Kinesiology tape can also be used to support the foot and reduce plantar fasciitis pain.

    With regular stretching, strengthening, and icing, you can expect your symptoms to dissipate with six to eight weeks. Severe cases may take longer.

    To prevent a recurrence, you need an exercise routine that engages the hips, lower back, thighs, knees, and ankles. By keeping the lower extremities strong and balanced, you can relieve the excess pressure on your foot and heel.

    Swimming and cycling also help. Over time, routine exercise and orthotics can reduce or even reverse the symptoms of plantar fasciitis if you catch it early enough.

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