I’ve walked three miles every morning for the last 25 years. Walking helps keeps me mentally balanced, reduces stress, helps ward off heart disease, depression and diabetes. It gives me time and space to clear my head, and frankly is the closest I ever come to meditating. It’s a must for my dog, too, who expects his daily constitution. To me, daily walking is an indispensable activity.
So last year when I came down with a serious case of plantar fasciitis and heel spurs, it might as well have been the end of the world. The pain was debilitating. I just couldn’t believe it was possible to wear out one’s feet by walking regularly. It didn’t make sense. I was desperate to make the pain go away, so I tried arch supports, shoe inserts, and all sorts of springy shoes that advertised they would help the problem. Nothing helped. I went to a podiatrist who diagnosed the problem with x-rays, recommended traditional physical therapy (at $75/hour) and cortisone injections into my foot, but the idea of sticking a needle into my foot just made me cringe. Plus, the doctor couldn’t give me any assurance that these treatments would cure the problem. It was all just stuff we could try.
Then one day during a chiropractic appointment, I complained to my practitioner, mostly for catharsis, about my plantar fasciitis and heel spurs and how they were keeping me from my daily walks. I didn’t expect him to do anything about it. I just wanted to vent.
To my great surprise, though, he said he could cure it and begged me to give him a chance to treat it.
No one had ever said anything to me like that before.
Trying Led to Believing
That chiropractor is Dr. Bryce Christianson, in Grand Junction, Colorado, who is a certified practitioner of Active Release Technique. That was why I sought him out in the first place.
I first experienced Active Release Technique (ART) while in San Francisco on a research fellowship in 2005-2006. While there, I chose a conveniently-located neighborhood chiropractor to help me with some back, neck and shoulder problems I had started getting from working on a computer all day. The woman I found used a technique that was noticeably different from those used by other chiropractors I had been to. I asked her what it was called, and she said it was called “Active Release Technique.”
This new technique proved far more effective and long-lasting in resolving my back and neck problems than the chiropractic “adjuster” I had gone to for 15 years back in Grand Junction. During all those years I had only gotten very short-lived relief from each visit. When I returned home after my stint in San Francisco, it was three or four more years before a certified ART practitioner opened up a shop in our town.
Bryce was that guy.
I didn’t know that ART could be used to treat plantar fasciitis (PF), and I agreed to give Bryce a crack at treating mine. He estimated it would take at least six treatments to get improvement in my condition, and gave me a great price on a six-visit “package” to help make the treatment affordable. In all honesty, the total price he gave me for the six visits was less than the cost of a single pair of Z-Coil shoes, which had helped me out of a previous bout of plantar fasciitis. But I dreaded wearing them not just because they are so heavy and ugly, but also because the exposed spring in the heel had proven quite dangerous on several occasions. They catch on things and I narrowly avoided some serious accidents while wearing them.
Active Technique for an Overuse Injury
In ART, the patient takes an active role in helping rehabilitate the affected body part, which consists of actively stretching while the practitioner manipulates ligaments, tendons and muscles. Bryce also recommended putting ice directly on the affected parts of my feet until they became numb.
I won’t lie. Some of that stretching was painful, and putting ice directly on my feet was hard to endure. I felt sore after each visit, but in each the days following treatments I noticed marked improvement. After six visits, my plantar fasciitis felt about 75% better.
Throughout the course of treatment, I learned that my original understanding of how to manage plantar fasciitis was completely wrong. I was told that I should never walk without wearing some kind of shoe or slipper with good arch support or orthotics. That turned out to be wrong. In fact, it turned out that it had contributed to the problem.
I found out that if you wear shoes and arch supports all the time and give the foot structures constant artificial support, you aren’t using your foot’s full full range of motion. If you prevent any body part from using its full range of motion, it will soon weaken from lack of use. This was true for my feet. When you create this weakened condition and then add the constant, repetitive pounding of walking or running day in and day out, it’s no wonder it leads to foot problems.
By avoiding every opportunity to walk barefoot over the years, my feet had become extremely weak. Bryce told me to walk barefoot around the house for short intervals, increasing the amount of time barefoot as time went on, and to walk on different surfaces, like carpet and tile. He recommended that I always stretch my feet before stepping out of bed, to warm up the tendons and ligaments prior to using them to prevent further injury. He also prescribed foot exercises which noticeably strengthened my feet. He also recommended rolling a golf ball under my foot regularly, and to start practicing picking up items, like a pen, a towel or the golf ball with my toes, to help my feet experience their full range of motion and further strengthen all the structures in my feet. Doing that actually felt good.
Bryce also advised me NOT to give up walking, but to reduce my mileage slightly, temporarily. So I reduced my walking distance from three to two miles a day for awhile, and incorporated bicycling occasionally instead of walking. I also purchased a pair of Kuru shoes, which the manufacturers say are designed to help with plantar fasciitis. They are extremely comfortable shoes and, while I can’t say they healed my foot problems, they did seem to prevent my feet from getting worse while I worked on rehabilitating them. They also look and feel a lot better than Z-Coil shoes, which, as I have said, do help PF, but that I dread.
After six visits with Bryce and performing all the rehab exercises regularly, I got to a plateau where I had about 75% less pain. But I wanted to be 100% cured, or as close to it as I could get. I returned to Bryce with this goal. He recommended four more visits and gave them to me at the same per-visit rate as the original package. I also kept up the rehab routine. After four more ART therapy visits and continuing the rehab stretching and exercises, I was about 95% better. Not bad!
Today I am extremely relieved to be back to walking my usual three miles a day. I estimate my foot pain has decreased by about 97 percent. Whenever I think of it, I kick off my shoes and walk barefoot around the house. I’ll do more barefoot walking this summer as the weather warms up. I exercise my feet regularly along with stretching every morning. I’m still working towards being 100 percent cured, but Bryce and ART treatment has gotten me a lot farther towards a real recovery than anything else.
I am so grateful to Bryce and his valuable knowledge of the Active Release Technique, because it really does work to cure plantar fasciitis. I’m skeptical by nature, and never believe anything until I see it for myself. Believe me, I’m a very tough judge of these things, and I will attest to the fact that ART really does work.
Here is Bryce’s website where you can book an appointment and see his recommendations for home care to help plantar fasciitis.
Choose a Practitioner With Care
One last caveat: I know a lot of the people who read this are probably as desperate for help as I was, but before you seek out an ART practitioner to help with your plantar fasciitis, I have one big caution: Make sure the practitioner you choose is truly certified in Active Release Technique. ART is a patented technique and is unique and very different from other physical therapy modalities.
Some chiropractors and physical therapists will take one ART course and then advertise they are versed in the technique. They aren’t. I mistakenly went to a chiropractor like that before I found Bryce, and there’s a world of difference. The practice of learning ART, I have found out, is very intensive, and requires a lot of dedication as well as expense. Practitioners have to take classes specializing in different areas of the body, learn over 500 “protocols,” or treatment moves, and develop a very sensitized ability to feel the texture of the tendons, fascia, ligaments and muscles. Practitioners have to be able to properly evaluate the movement of each specific tissue relative to the next. To become certified in ART, practitioners must take many hours of classes, practice on other people while being observed and, for testing, work on one instructor while being observed by another. ART practitioners also have to undergo frequent recertification to keep their certification and assure their skills stay up to snuff.
It takes a serious investment of time, funds and dedication to become a qualified, effective ART practitioner. Don’t settle for a fake, because a truly certified ART practitioner will make all the difference in your treatment. You can find true, certified practitioners by visiting ActiveRelease.com, clicking on “Find a Provider” and entering your address.
I hope this information helps other people suffering with plantar fasciitis and heel spurs to get relief from their conditions. I’m glad to be able to write about something that’s NOT a scam!
You can read more about Bryce’s wellness practice, Coor Wellness, here: http://coorwellness.com/