Earlier this week I received an email from someone asking me to suggest essential oils they could use for Plantar Fasciitis. This was not a client, or anyone I already have a relationship with, simply someone looking for relief from a painful condition. This was also the only information they gave me. Although I get quite a number of these sorts of emails it always surprises me. In spite of aromatherapy and the use of essential oils becoming more and more ‘mainstream’ there is still a lot that most people don’t know or understand about them. Many believe that because I am an aromatherapist I should be able to rattle off an essential oil or a blend that will work for whatever it is that ails them.
An approach I try to teach my students is to gather all the relevant information before deciding on an essential oil or essential oil blend and a method of application. Firstly, understand the condition and how it can manifest. Secondly, understand how the condition is manifesting in the person you are blending for. Then add to this an understanding of their general health condition, their lifestyle preferences and possibly any emotional challenges they are facing that might exacerbate their condition. Once armed with this information you are able to create a unique blend and protocol for use that will work so much better than a ‘one blend fits everyone’ solution.
Plantar Fasciitis Medical Approach
According to the Mayo Clinic: “Plantar fasciitis (PLAN-tur fas-e-I-tis) is one of the most common causes of heel pain. It involves inflammation of a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes (plantar fascia). Plantar fasciitis commonly causes stabbing pain that usually occurs with your first steps in the morning. As you get up and move more, the pain normally decreases, but it might return after long periods of standing or after rising from sitting.
Plantar fasciitis is more common in runners. In addition, people who are overweight and those who wear shoes with inadequate support have an increased risk of plantar fasciitis.” It can be caused when tension and stress become too great on the plantar fascia and may even cause small tears.
Repetitive stretching and tearing can cause the fascia to become irritated or inflamed, although in many cases the cause isn’t clear. Risk Factors include: Age (most common between the ages of 40 – 60); Certain types of exercise (long-distance running, ballistic jumping activities, etc.); Foot mechanics (being flat-footed, having a high arch or even your pattern of walking can affect the way weight is distributed when you are standing and put added stress on the plantar fascia); Obesity (excess weight puts extra stress on the plantar fascia); Occupations that keep you on your feet (people who spend most of their work hours walking or standing on hard surfaces can damage their plantar fascia.)
Ignoring plantar fasciitis can result in heel pain, which in turn can lead to someone changing the way they walk which in turn can lead to foot, knee, hip and/or back problems.
According to the Mayo Clinic website, the regular medial options include: rest, icing the painful areas, stretching; pain medication to relieve the pain and inflammation; physical therapy, night splints; orthotics to help pressure on the foot more evenly. They also recommend the following lifestyle changes that can help relieve the condition: Maintain a healthy weight; Choose supportive shoes; Don’t wear worn-our athletic shoes; Try changing to a low-impact sport; Apply ice on the painful areas; and do simple stretching exercises to stretch the plantar fascia, Achilles tendon and calf muscles.
Plantar Fasciitis Aromatherapy Approach
Considering making a lifestyle change is always a good place to start. On the other hand I do know that there are many essential oils that could be helpful for pain and inflammation. My article on Pain Relief certainly lists many of the oils that could ease the pain and discomfort of Plantar Fascitis.
There are a number of different ways you might consider using the essential oils. For instance a relaxing foot bath may help to bring relief to tired feet, especially for those who have to be on their feet for long periods of time. If the area is already inflamed applying cold compresses with an essential oil blend could bring a lot of relief. When the pain and/or inflammation is ongoing you would also probably want to apply a topical application by diluting your essential oil blend in an appropriate carrier and applying it topically to the problem area. Whether you use a carrier oil (or cream or lotion base) or a gel base will depend on how quickly you need the essential oil blend to be absorbed. With a gel base the oils are absorbed quickly which can be good for quick pain relief, while an oil base will work more slowly giving you a slower release over a longer period of time.
You will find a guide to safe topical dilution rates on the Methods of Use page, and a list of possible Cautions or contra-indications on the Contraindications page so you can ensure that you are using the right oils and dilutions for the individual.