Science

Think Sleep is Important? Think Again!

We all know sleep is important, but you may not know the half of it! Disordered sleep has an incredible negative impact on all sorts of facets of your health!

Why Is Sleep Important?

A good night’s sleep is essential for our overall well being. In fact, it’s as important as healthy nutrition and regular exercising.

However, our to-do list is becoming longer and longer each day, and sometimes 24 hours just isn’t enough to take care of all our responsibilities! Because of this, we sometimes neglect the importance of sleep, and the question is: how long our body can put up with this new and fast way of life?

Facts About Sleep You Didn’t Know

Did you know that between 50 and 70 million people in the United States have chronic sleep disorders and that the number hits more than 2 billion people worldwide? People suffer from a variety of sleep issues that are either connected to the lack of sleep or some health problems.

More than 35% of the people in the US get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep per night, and about 45% of them reported that inadequate sleep affected their daytime activities.

1. You Can Gain Weight Because of the Poor Sleep

Poor sleep is strongly linked with gaining weight. Sleep deprivation causes changes in hormones that regulate hunger and appetite. In fact, sleep deprivation is one of the greatest risk factors for obesity.

Children who don’t get enough sleep at night are 89% more likely to be obese, and adults are 55% more likely. Furthermore, less sleep lowers your energy and motivation for exercising, which also leads to unwanted weight.

To stay fit and healthy, it’s crucial to get enough sleep at night (between 7 and 9 hours).

2. Good Sleep Can Improve Concentration and Productivity

Sleep has a huge impact on brain functions. These include cognition, concentration, productivity, and performance.

A study conducted on medical interns showed that interns who had an extended schedule of more than 24 hours made 36% more serious medical errors than interns who had more time to sleep. Another study showed that sleep deprivation could have the same impact on the brain as alcohol intoxication.

On the other hand, enough good-quality sleep can improve problem-solving skills and memory performance in both children and adults.

3. Sleep Improves Your Immune System

Even a small loss of sleep could decrease the strength of our immune system. A two-week-long study showed that people who slept for less than seven hours per night were almost three times more likely to get a cold than people who got eight or more hours of sleep.

The study was done after 14 days when people were given nasal drops of a cold virus. If you often get colds and you’re tired of it, getting more than eight hours of sleep at night could be very helpful.

4. Sleep Has a Huge Effect on Emotions and Social Interactions

Less sleep decreases the motivation for social interactions. One study showed that people who didn’t get enough sleep were less able to recognize facial expressions, happiness, and anger in other people. Researchers believe that sleep deprivation affects our ability to recognize important social signs and process emotional information.

The Bottom Line

Getting enough sleep is very important. It’s not only important for our social interactions, but also for our health. Try getting between seven and nine hours of sleep each night and see how your life gets better!

Want more? Check out this infographic here: Sleep Stats and Facts

Hormones? Who Cares? They Only Control EVERYTHING About Your Body

The Endocrine System is made up of glands that produce and secrete hormones to regulate our cells, tissues, and organs. This system therefore regulates our metabolism, sleep, mood, and so much more.!

For example, if you eat your favorite sugary dessert, your blood glucose increases, so your pancreas starts pumping out insulin to try to bring your body back to its happy place. If your blood sugar gets too low, other hormones will kick in to bring it back to homeostasis…the perfect balance.

The Pancreas

The Pancreas is the largest gland of the endocrine system. It produces insulin that helps you use energy from the food you eat by transporting it to the muscles and tissue that use glucose for energy.

Too much insulin in our blood reduces its ability to regulate our system, which can cause obesity and Type 2 Diabetes. Exercise improves insulin sensitivity and reduces the reliance on insulin injections!

Adrenal Glands

An adrenal gland is located on the top of each kidney. It is responsible for releasing cortisol (and adrenaline) into our bloodstream, and it turns stored carbohydrates into energy.

Cortisol can help control blood pressure, blood sugar levels, metabolism, and help reduce inflammation. However, there is such thing as “Too Much of a Good Thing”. If you find when you are losing weight that you are losing muscle, try adding a small amount of carbohydrate before and/or during exercise. This will inhibit cortisol from being released and thus reduce the breakdown of muscle!

Thyroid Gland

When you start exercising, the thyroid gland (at the base of the neck) sends out hormones that regulate the body’s temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. It also regulates the alertness and focus that are needed to work at a high intensity.

The thyroid regulates how fast your body uses the calories from the food you eat…which is why you have likely heard of hypothyroidism (where it doesn’t produce enough of the hormone).

Pituitary Gland

The Pituitary gland is the “master gland”, at the base of the brain which regulates all the other glands we have talked about so far. When we exercise, the Pituitary gland releases a hormone to signal the body to increase bone, muscle and tissue production. Feed your gland…let’s work out!

You can learn even more in this great article by ACE Fitness!

Important: Hormone Disruptors

The endocrine system is very structured in its process, unless endocrine disruptors (i.e BPA, fire retardants, etc) are in play. They may cause a response to be too high, too low, or all together different than was intended and not in a good way. Hormone disruptors have been known to cause obesity, bring on early puberty, alter the function of sex hormones and mess with our immune systems. Sadly, they can be found in our food, water, pesticides, cosmetics, and so much more. Help your body get rid of these toxins through SWEAT!

Here’s a great article from Precision Nutrition – all about hormone disruptors!

What You Need To Know About Your Muscles

MUSCLES!

You have 642 of them, you use them every day, but what do you really know about them? Knowledge is power if every aspect of life and training is no different – read on!

Opposing Muscle Groups

When talking about muscles sometimes it is easiest to think of a really simple one for starters, so let’s begin with those biceps being shown off up above! When you bend your arm, your bicep contracts and your tricep does the opposite (elongates) in order to let your elbow bend.

These are called “opposing muscle groups”. Our workouts need to cover all aspects of muscle training from the composition of muscle to how they perform.

Muscle Fibers

Muscle fibers are long and cylindrical; only about the size of a strand of hair! These fibers determine how much weight you can lift and for how many reps (think a bunch of hairs tied in a ponytail make up what a muscle looks and acts like).

There are two types of muscle fibers:

Slow Twitch

Slow twitch fibers are used for aerobic exercise and are very resistant to fatigue and are good for things such as longer distance running. The downside is, they don’t move very quickly (like if you suddenly need to sprint to the finish line). You train slow twitch fibers with higher repetitions, at a slower tempo, and with short rest times.

Fast Twitch

Unlike slow twitch muscle fibers, fast twitch fire very quickly but also fatigue quickly. Fast twitch fibers are used for things like sprints and heavy lifting. You train fast twitch fibers with explosive movements like the push press, kettlebell swing, and box jumps. This type of POWER training needs more rest and recovery time.

Are We All The Same?

NO! Every person has a different percentage of fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers, which is why some people tend to be naturally better at running distances than sprinting, or better at longer sets than short ones. Even within each person different muscles may be various ratios of fast and slow. For instance maybe your hamstrings are 60% slow twitch, but your biceps only 30%.

So, Why Bother Training?

You are born with a certain number of muscle fibers so you can’t increase the number of them, but you CAN increase their overall mass and strength.

Remember when we said there were TWO muscle fiber types? Well…technically that’s correct, but within “Fast Twitch” there is the potential to train for more short bursts of power or more endurance. Muscles literally change based on your activity and these hybrids will shift more toward slow or fast depending on your training. Train for your goals!

TRAINING GOAL CHEAT SHEET

Determine if your workout is designed to gain muscle size (HYPERTROPHY), strength, or power.

Hypertrophy training aims to fatigue the muscle fiber, which after proper rest will cause the muscle to grow larger. 6-12 Reps and rest 30-90 seconds. The focus is more about the process vs the actual load.

Strength (vs muscle size or power) requires a slower speed and lower reps (like 6 or less) with heavier load/weight.

Power training is similar to strength training, but speed of contraction becomes a factor as we want to generate as much power in as short a time as possible.

As you have seen this week, to get a fully balanced program to build muscle strength, size, and power takes a fine balance and a deeper understanding of how the body works. At Ellipse, you see Tabata, Declining Hypertrophy, Eccentric Training, Pause Training, and so much more. All the different formats and styles are to achieve RESULTS! If you can step through that front door and work to YOUR best, we’ve got the rest covered 😊

Get The Skinny on Healthy Fats!

Plain and simple, our bodies need dietary fat. Did you know your BRAIN is made up of nearly 60% fat? A diet too low in fat robs your brain of the materials it needs to function properly. It’s not just the essential fatty acids and omega 3’s either (fats found in food like salmon, avocados and nuts) but also some of the saturated fats which we have been told for years to avoid, including natural animal fats!

Why You Can’t Eat “Fat-Free”

Essential Vitamins

Vitamins such as A, D, E and K are not water soluble and require fat to get transported and absorbed by the body. These vitamins are crucial for brain health and many of our vital organs.

Healthy Fats keep your lungs working properly

Our lungs are coated with a substance composed almost entirely of saturated fat. Premature babies who are lacking this substance are given something called “surfactant” to keep their lungs functioning properly. Without enough saturated fat, our lungs can be compromised. Some studies are now looking at the link between the low consumption of saturated fat and Asthma as a result of the breakdown of this fatty layer.

• Healthy Fats for a Strong immune system

Saturated fats such as those found in butter and coconut oil play key roles in immune health. Loss of too much saturated fatty acids in white blood cells hampers their ability to recognize and destroy foreign invaders such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi. A great source of saturated fat is from animal fats like grass fed dairy and butter or fatty fish like salmon (wild is generally a better choice).

• Healthier Body Composition

One benefit of eating healthy fats is better body composition! This refers to your % of fat-weight versus % of lean-weight. Eating healthy fats help you lose body fat by improving metabolism, balancing hormones (hormones that help you feel full longer) and eliminating constant cravings.

Tips for Putting it in Action

• Fats: What and how much?

You should include healthy fats at each meal, but there is no need to pull out a measuring spoon every time you eat…a portion size of healthy fats is the size of your thumb! Nuts and seeds are a great source of fats. Certain oils are also excellent sources, like extra virgin olive oil or extra virgin coconut oil.
PRO TIP: Have you tried using avocado oil spray? A great option to get the healthy fat in without overdoing it!

• Balance and Variety

Balance your diet with a variety of fat types (saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated) from high quality foods like: seeds, nuts, seafood, coconut, avocado, olives. Avoid the processed foods that contain the unhealthy fats like “Hydrogenated” fats or Trans Fats

Sugar? Starch? Carb? What’s The Difference!

Last week we talked about forms of sugar (words ending -ose) and how they are different or alike. In many cases the sugars broke down to, in at least part, glucose. Glucose is used by your muscles to perform work. Sugars are SIMPLE carbohydrates. COMPLEX carbohydrates are what we call “starches”.

Why Do I CARE??

GLYCOGEN! Glycogen is why you care.

Glycogen is one of TWO forms of energy storage in the body:

1. Glycogen stored in muscle and the liver.

2. Triglycerides (i.e. FAT) stored in adipose tissue.

So, let’s get to the point…Your body can store 1-day’s worth of glycogen. The trick is, your body will use your “one day” stores of glycogen BEFORE relying on the stored energy in your fat cells. Meaning, you MUST exercise off your daily stores before you can mobilize the energy stored in the fat cells. Keep your energy/food intake in check!

Why Complex Carbohydrates Matter

All forms of sugar, and starch, break down into glucose. Starch is a COMPLEX CARB (i.e. 3-10 sugars linked in a long COMPLEX chain) vs sugar being a SIMPLE CARB.

Starch/complex carbs break down slower than simple carbs/sugar. Since complex carbs break down slower, we stay “full” longer. Complex carb examples include peas, beans, whole grains, and vegetables. Stick with complex carbs in your diet vs simple carbs for overall health!

Starch come in the forms of digestible and resistant starch. Digestible starch is quickly turned into fat if we don’t use it right away. Resistant starch doesn’t get digested in the small intestine like digestible starch, instead many types ferment in the large intestine and act like fiber! Resistant starches are not broken down into glucose in the stomach, so they have a lower calorie content, also improve insulin sensitivity/lower our blood sugar levels and keep us full longer (thanks to the slow digestion). Although there are various types of resistant starch, some examples are grains, seeds, legumes, potatoes and unrefined rice.

WAIT: White rice is “refined”, which means it’s been processed, and the fiber has been broken down making it a SIMPLE carb. Brown rice however is a whole grain – fiber intact – so it is a complex carb. Purchase whole grain rice!

Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs??

Why are the terms “good carbs” and “bad carbs” floating out there? GOOD carbs can be considered those that not only contain energy/glucose (i.e. refined sugar) but also vitamins and minerals (i.e. vegetables – more bang for your your calorie-buck).

EXERCISE improves how our body moves sugar/glucose into our muscles, eventually causing you to require much less insulin than someone who is physically inactive.

Shake the Afternoon Slump!

During our onboarding process, we have found that many people indicate the termed “afternoon slump”.

You know, that tired feeling like you would just love a quick nap to be able to finish out the day. There is good news! For the most part, this is normal, but there are things to consider and ways to help combat it. This week we’ll chat about afternoon slumps!

Get Some Sunshine!

You might be able to cure this simply by listening to some upbeat music and/or getting out in the sunshine for a few minutes for a quick boost!

Was it my lunch?

Maybe, maybe not. Research has shown that the slump can even happen without having eaten lunch. However, keeping a level glycemic load in the body can help offset a natural afternoon slump. You need a proper balance of carbs, protein, and fats. A high carb lunch can set you up for a quick drive in energy, but you will quickly find the drop that follows it. Also, make sure you stay hydrated! Even a 1.5% drop in hydration can cause drowsiness.

Was it a poor night’s sleep?

Could be! CHRONIC afternoon slumps or general sleepiness could indicate a medical condition (like a metabolic disorder, PCOS, or sleep apnea) or medication side effects. Be sure to check with your doctor if you have chronic fatigue.

Medical conditions aside, a poor night’s sleep can come back to bite you in the afternoon. Adult bodies need 7-9 hours of QUALITY and UNINTERRUPTED sleep to allow it to run through its full recovery process (mentally and physically!). A quick 10-minute power nap can help with that afternoon slump, though. Just make sure it doesn’t turn into a longer nap which can interrupt a normal night’s sleep.

I had a healthy lunch – what’s wrong with me?

You’re human! The human body runs in a circadian rhythm. By nature, the body naturally dips in energy between midnight and daybreak, then again, a smaller dip between 2p and 4p. Just like near bedtime, your core body temperature drops signaling to your brain that it’s time to sleep – a smaller version of that happens midafternoon. This will typically result in a quick drop in energy, alertness, and focus. As you age, the mid-afternoon slump will likely be more noticeable than in younger years.

TIP: Your body associate’s stillness with sleep. Been sitting a long time? Get up and move around!

It’s the afternoon and it hit me! Now what?

Well maybe we should start with what won’t work? A quick sugar high like a Mountain Dew, candy bar, or a triple shot of mocha in your coffee. These will simply exaggerate your energy very briefly before causing an even bigger dip/low point.

Caffeine can certainly offer some aid, remember to try and keep a full day’s caffeine load to 400mg or less.

What else CAN help? A short bout of exercise like going for a walk or jog. Exercise can produce endorphins and release tension which can offset fatigue.

In the end, get a good night’s sleep, eat well, exercise, and listen to your body! Or, go work for the Huffington Post where they offer “The Oasis”…sleep pods for their employees!

I work shift work. What about me?

Night shifts and swing shifts are tough on the body in regard to circadian rhythm (mentioned above). “Afternoon slump” aside, non-traditional job hours still require a good 7-9 hours of sleep each day otherwise you will fall into a sleep-debt mode that needs to be fulfilled as soon as possible to prevent the increased likeliness of disease.

With night shifts, do not delay going to bed when you are tired! The longer you delay, the more alert you will become. Still try to get 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep, putting your phone on “do not disturb”.

Some other tricks are to eat a small snack before bed and making sure your sleep environment is quiet, dark, and cool.

Pets and Health: Bigger Than You Thought!

According to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey (yes that is a real thing!), 68% of US households – about 85 million families – own a pet.

Studies have shown that dog owners particularly decrease their risk of death in general by 33 percent compared with those without a pet!!

This week we’ll talk about how pets can have a positive impact on your health from stress to fitness! Don’t have a pet? Go check out the local humane society and/or pet sanctuaries!

Pets and Stress Response:

Now this may depend on the person – and on the pet – but numerous studies have shown that pets can help lower blood pressure and regulate the heart rate during stressful conditions. Even when they are not with you at the time! Pretty amazing. Outside of casual health benefits, therapy animals can be used for more extensive needs, such as equine therapy for conditions from depression, to anxiety and post-traumatic stress!
Check out this link for info on therapy dogs!

Pets and Staying Active:

Pets can help you stay active, particularly if you have a pet that requires outside time. Walking the dog for instance is an activity that will force you to get outside in even the harsh winter conditions instead of loafing around when the weather is poor! Going for a short walk can have tremendous health benefits when compared with hours of sitting uninterrupted.

Pets and Mental Health:

On the same idea as licensed therapy pets, pets love you for who you are without judgement, which can lead to feelings of acceptance that one may not always get from family or society! Dog parks can be a great way to get active with your pet as well as have a social outlet with others that share a common interest.

Find local parks, and establishments, where you can bring your dog along at www.bringfido.com. Check out the activities area for local dog parks and outdoor options.

Pets and Allergies:

The National Institute of Health has suggested “children exposed to high indoor levels of pet or pest allergens during infancy have a lower risk of developing asthma by 7 years old.” (Source) A similar earlier study found homes with cats had a protective effect, having made allergy-related antibodies, against asthma symptoms in young children. Some scientists believe pets carry microbes that stimulate the immune system so that children don’t become allergic. (Source)

A Pet a Day Keeps the Doctor Away:

Two studies involving the same participants 5 years apart showed that people who had a pet both at the first and second touchpoint had the fewest doctors visits of the group, followed by the group who had no pet the first round and had then acquired one within the 5 years preceding the next.

Take a moment to think about that!

Dog, Cat, Horse, Fish, Bird – any pet counts!

More Resources:
http://www.center4research.org/benefits-pets-human-health/
https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/features/6-ways-pets-improve-your-health#2

Dry Needling for Joint and Muscle Pain Relief

What is Dry Needling?

The name “dry needling” comes from studies that were done to determine the effectiveness of injections. The studies showed that just putting a needle into a trigger point (a small, tight, tender area in a muscle) was just as effective as injecting a pain relieving or anti-inflammatory medication into the trigger point. Since nothing is injected with dry needling, we refer to it as “dry.”

Is Dry Needling the Same as Acupuncture?

While the two are often confused, they are actually different treatments. Dry needling is performed in the dysfunctional area, whereas acupuncture may be performed in the hand to address a headache, for example. Dry needling also focuses mainly on the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions.

How is Dry Needling Done?

First, the area of pain or tension will be assessed in order to locate trigger points. Then a needle will be placed into the muscle, and then the needle will be moved around in small movements that cause the muscle to activate – seen or felt as a twitch in the muscle. Once the twitching ceases, the needle is removed from the muscle.

What is the Purpose of Dry Needling?

Dry needling helps to relieve pain, help muscles relax, and improve function. Usually dry needling is used on tense muscles that are causing pain and affecting a person’s function. It is a very effective method and the results can be seen quicker than other treatments such as massage. The effects of dry needling can be felt after just one session but may take more than one to fully resolve the issue. It is used in conjunction with other treatments such as manual therapy and exercise.

Is Dry Needling Safe?

The risks associated with dry needling are minimal which makes it a safe procedure when performed by a trained practitioner. Physical therapists are regulated by each state in the training they must receive for dry needling before they can use the treatment on patients. Physical therapists also use clean technique, meaning they wear gloves and make sure that they use hand sanitizer and alcohol to sanitize the area being needled. Also, needles are kept in sealed packaging until use so that they are sanitary and safe for use. After a single use they are disposed of in a sharps container and are never reused.

Does Dry Needling Hurt?

Every person is different, and each muscle responds differently to dry needling. The process can be uncomfortable, but is usually not painful. The needle used for dry needling is a very thin needle similar to those used for acupuncture, so there is usually no pain associated with the needle being inserted into the skin. The muscle twitches associated with dry needling can be uncomfortable but typically are not painful. There may be some lingering soreness afterwards but this usually lasts less than 24 hours. Drinking plenty of water after having dry needling done can help to lessen this soreness.

Is Everyone Appropriate for Dry Needling?

While dry needling is a very effective and safe procedure for most people, not everyone is a candidate for it. There are certain precautions that can affect someone’s ability to have dry needling done (for example, over the area of a pacemaker). There is also a timeline of when dry needling is appropriate after surgery so that there is no increased risk for infection. Talk to your physical therapist to see if you’re appropriate for dry needling.

This blog was specially written by our friend and guest writer Rachel Zimmerman, DPT.

Rachel is clinic director at ATI Physical Therapy right here in Green Bay, WI. You can find out more about her clinic or find a location near you at ATIpt.com!

8 Glasses of Water a Day? THINK AGAIN!

This time of year is often about trying to maintain some semblance of health while being bombarded with treats, rich foods and drinks.

One way to combat this is simply to drink enough, and/or MORE, water! Simple huh?

The science of water has changed some over the past decade, so let’s see if you have the latest facts!

How do I tell how much water is the right amount for me?

Taboo or not, check the color of your urine! If you are properly hydrated your urine will be colorless or light yellow in color. Drinking too much water is rare for healthy Americans who eat a typical American diet.

How much water should I drink each day?

It’s simple to give a solid number, but the reality is every person is different. Water needs are based on your health, your activity level, and where you live. Outside of being sick or pregnant, women’s general recommendations are around 90 ounces per day (74 ounces at a minimum) and 125 ounces for men; BUT this includes water from food consumption as well.

Foods high in water, like fruits and vegetables, will contribute more to your daily intake, typically about 20%. Even coffee, tea, etc is still counted toward your water intake, caffeine or not. Still not your gig? Try drinking broth!

Wait…Coffee counts??

You’ll be happy to know, despite popular the myth, science shows that coffee does NOT dehydrate you. If tap water just doesn’t do it for you, grab that cup of Joe…just skip, or go light, on the add ins because excessive dairy and sugar will certainly not help you feel hydrated.

What about carbonated water?

The latest science shows that carbonated water is just as good for you than still/tap water. Science has shown that carbonated water is NOT bad for your tooth enamel or bones and has been shown to help with digestion!

Is carbonated water too acidic? Well, it’s been shown that your body properly balances the slightly acidic carbonated water via the kidneys, with no additional stress. Not feeling the tap water? Crack open a non-sweetened sparkling water! Check your label just to be sure. Have you tried HINT sparkling infused water? NO sweeteners!

BEWARE! Tonic Water and Club Soda are not the same as carbonated water or Seltzer Water

What about exercise?

In addition to needing water to lubricate and cushion your joints, you need to replenish the water you lose during exercise. It’s important to note, the amount consumed to replace it would not count toward your daily consumption needs. For most, this ranges between 12-24 ounces when working out for less than an hour. When it’s hot/humid, your hydration needs will increase.

What You Need to Know: Plantar Fasciitis

Today’s blog post is courtesy of a special guest writer and expert on the topic of Plantar Fasciitis: Rachel Zimmerman DPT.

If you’ve ever experienced pain in the bottom of your foot, or in your heel, chances are it’s Plantar Fasciitis.

There is a common misconception that this is something you have to live with, but you don’t! The following advice will help alleviate your pain and get you back on your feet.

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

To understand what this condition is, we need to break it down into parts: plantar fascia and -itis. The plantar fascia is a structure in the bottom of the foot. It is a thin, white tissue similar to a ligament that sits between the skin and the muscle and extends from the heel to the toes. It provides stability to the foot. The suffix “-itis” is a Greek term meaning inflammation. So plantar fasciitis is inflammation of this tissue in the bottom of the foot.

What are the Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis typically presents as pain in the heel, usually on the inside part of the foot. The pain can also spread along the arch and along the bottom of the foot. The pain is usually worst during the first few steps after getting out of bed in the morning but can also occur after standing or walking for long periods of time.

What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis has multiple causes, but one of the most common is increasing your activity level too quickly! Also, having tight calf muscles, weak foot muscles, and/or wearing improper footwear.

What do I do if I believe I have plantar fasciitis?

Avoid aggravating activities: The most important thing you can do when you have an inflammatory condition is to avoid activities that increase your pain. Figure out which activities are aggravating it and modify them as you can. This does not mean to avoid activity altogether – just find activities you can do that don’t increase your pain level. This does not have to be long term, just while you are experiencing pain.

Stretch your calves: Tight calf muscles (the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles) can contribute to inflammation in the plantar fascia. Stretch your calves by sitting with your feet out in front of you with your knees straight, and place a towel around the ball of your foot. Pull back on the towel towards you until you feel a stretch in the calf. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat a few times. You should feel a stretch, but not pain.

Strengthen your foot muscles: There are specific muscles in your foot that help to support your arch and take stress off the plantar fascia.

   • Great toe extension: Lift big toe, leaving other 4 on the ground. Repeat for 3 sets of 10.

   • Small toe extension: Lift 4 smaller toes, leaving big toe down. Repeat for 3 sets of 10.

   • Doming: Raise the arch of your foot, keeping toes down. Repeat for 3 sets of 10.

Change your footwear: Avoid shoes that are flat as these do not support your arch and can contribute to stress on the plantar fascia. Look for shoes that have a buildup on the inside of the shoe where your arch would be. Most shoe stores will be able to help find footwear that is appropriate for your feet, whether you need a stability shoe (which has more arch support than normal) or a neutral shoe (which has arch support but not as much as a stability shoe).

Ice: You can freeze a plastic water bottle, and then roll your bare foot over the frozen water bottle. It provides massage and ice, which will decrease the inflammation and will numb the pain temporarily. Do this for a few minutes at a time at most.

Consider orthotics: There are orthotics, or inserts for your shoe, that provide more stability for your arch. You can try basic orthotics from a drugstore or consider custom orthotics. A physical therapist, podiatrist, or orthotist can help you with custom orthotics.

**If your pain does not get better, consult a physical therapist! There are many other factors that contribute to plantar fasciitis that your physical therapist may be able to assess and treat.

This blog was specially written by our friend and guest writer Rachel Zimmerman, DPT.

Rachel is clinic director at ATI Physical Therapy right here in Green Bay, WI. You can find out more about her clinic or find a location near you at ATIpt.com!