Trigger Point Release for Heel Pain
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Ow! I can’t touch that spot! It hurts too much.

Oh, contraire, you’ve just found a trigger point and touching it is how you release it.

Trigger points are those tight painful knots in your muscles that cause pain where they reside or in other parts of the body. For instance, a knot in a certain muscle in the calf can actually cause pain in the low back.

A result of my work with trigger points is that I’ve developed a theory that aging doesn’t make us stiffer. Rather, I believe that over time we just end up with more trigger points, the cause of our reduced range of motion.
For example, if you have trigger points in your hamstrings, you probably can’t touch your toes. Not to mention that these trigger points are likely causing neighbouring muscles to overwork, leading to more trigger points, which compounds, causing even less range of motion and more painful knots.

It results in an escalating cycle of pain, fatigue, weakness, and stiffness that we often attribute to old age. You know, ‘I used to be able to do that when I was younger, but I can’t anymore.’

I say, forget that! Reclaim your youthful, pain-free, flexible movements by becoming aware of your trigger points and then working at releasing them.

The feet are the perfect place to begin, especially if you think you have plantar fasciitis or heel spurs. In other words, awful heel pain that drives you nuts every time you take a step. News flash to the pain weary: If a trigger point is involved, your heel pain is releasable. You don’t have to live with it anymore.
First, let’s talk about contraindications, or conditions that you may have that make trigger point release or any massage work not a good idea. Don’t if you have an –itis, which means an inflammatory condition, such as arthritis in a flare up or phlebitis (vein inflammation); any severe condition, such as stroke, unstable heart disease, or diabetes; advanced organ disease; severe osteoporosis, high blood pressure, or atherosclerosis/arteriosclerosis; contagious/infectious conditions; severe neurological diseases; highly metastatic cancers or during post radiation treatment; eclampsia; hemophilia, hemorrhage, or blood clotting problems. And never work directly on varicose veins, torn or swollen tissues, skin conditions, or fractures. If in doubt, don’t.
To release your feet, you’ll need a hi-bounce rubber ball. The small energetic kind the kids love to play with. You can pick a golf-ball sized one up for about a dollar or two.

Put the ball on a hard floor, no rugs. You’re going to step on the ball, paying attention to placement because contact with the trigger point is crucial to successful release. Don’t put the ball right against the heel, instead, move the ball slightly forward, so it’s almost but not on the junction of where your heel turns into your arch. This places it smack under the more deeply placed quadratus plantae muscle. Now step on the ball, slowly transferring more of your weight onto that foot. If you’re feeling trigger point pain, awesome, hold there for a minute, then move the ball slightly to either side of that spot and work again.

No pain? Well, that means no trigger point. And believe me, there’s no mistaking trigger point pain, it’ll bring tears to your eyes and shouts of disbelief to your lips.

You can also try working the small ball or a larger lacrosse ball in the arch of the foot because most people do have trigger points in this area. However, the pain referral patterns here are to the ball of the foot, not the heel. The YouTube vid shows how to work the arch of the foot and the spot just distal to the heel.

Dry needling acupuncture also works very well with the quadratus plantae muscle in the foot, but you’ll need to find a qualified physio practitioner.
For further heel-pain release, you’ll also need to work the calf muscles, too. This is a must to get a handle on the heel pain. You might not know it, but many calf muscles move or control various parts of the feet. This means your toes are able to point and curl because of help from muscles in the calf. First, two cautions: don’t use excessive force on the calf and don’t apply pressure to varicose veins, ever!

A gentle method for calf-muscle release is to lie on your back, bend your knees, then place your right calf on your left knee. Gently go over the entire calf with your knee, working out those tender knots and tight places. Alternatively you could try the calf release with ball method shown in the Youtube vid above, by using the Tiger Tail below, or you could try my new favourite method,
Chinese vaccuum cups. This is probably one of the least painful to release your calves and so is more likely to be done, leading to better results.

Try a short session every day for a few days. You’ll find that when the trigger points start releasing, the pain will decrease, and working on the area becomes easier and easier. Pretty soon you’ll be walking around no problem, having forgotten all about the heel pain you used to have…and what a great day that will be.
And if you find trigger point release does nothing for, you may actually have plantar fasciitis or tibialis posterior syndrome. Getting checked out by a physiotherapist can help pinpoint just what is causing your pain. For some tips on how to tackle these problems head to Plantar Fasciitis and Tibial Posterior Syndrome.
If you’re interested in a book on the topic, check out Clair Davies’ The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook. It’s my favourite and most recommended book on trigger point release. Davies provides many self-release techniques, which allows you to take control of your own pain management.

The newish to the Western World therapy of Massage Cupping, a method that uses Chinese Medicine cups to release tight and knotty tissue, is an extremely effective and much less painful way for you or your massage therapist to release your trigger points, especially those in your calves.
The Tiger Tail is also a great tool for releasing feet and calves and so many other areas of the body. It is more expensive than the ball, but it’s so good at getting into trigger points it’ll become one of your first go to choices. Available in 18" and 22" lengths.

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