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Fitness column: Cut Manning some slack

Steve Wells
Staff Photo |

Every dedicated and supportive Broncos fan has his own opinion about Peyton Manning’s recent performance. Many nonathlete, know-it-all, Monday-morning-quarterbacks think that Peyton should just suck it up and keep playing with several debilitating injuries. Hopefully the new guy’s win will settle down passionate fans and give Peyton some long-deserved rest.

I realize that it might be time for Mr. Manning to make some tough decisions, but first let me tell you how hard it is to play with a bad case of plantar fasciitis. Pros can mask the effects of many injuries, but PF is extremely difficult to deal with.

Most people can hardly walk without intense pain when they enjoy this condition, let alone try a five step drop with 11 giant dudes trying to tackle you to earn new Bentleys and diamond earrings.



I see many people in the gym with this condition and there are many who are slowly developing it. PF can put a stop to pro football, working out or any activity.

Most people can hardly walk without intense pain when they enjoy plantar fasciitis, let alone try a five step drop with 11 giant dudes trying to tackle you to earn new Bentleys and diamond earrings.

Plantar means the bottom of your foot. Fascia is the incredibly multifunctional layers of tough connective tissue found on the bottom of our feet and all throughout our bodies. “Itis” means inflammation. When you have plantar fasciitis, it can feel like you are walking on needles, similar to the symptoms of gout or a heel spur or stepping on sharp pieces of glass — you get the idea.



There is almost no medical remedy for this problem. In fact, some experts like Dr. Karim Khan, a professor of family practice medicine at the University of British Columbia and editor of The British Journal of Sports Medicine, who has written extensively about overuse sports injuries, think that it is not an inflammatory problem at all. Maybe this explains why it is so difficult to heal.

I think that we have much to learn about the properties of fascia. Not long ago, scientists used to simply cut away fascia to examine other more important stuff. Now, smart people are questioning the authority about fascia and finding out that there is a lot more to this stuff than experts may think.

Even though plantar fasciitis is a medical anomaly, the fix is simple. The fix doesn’t work with our culture’s incessant demand for instant results from a scalpel or a pill. Some things you just have to be patient about.

Coaches, supportive fans, agents and sponsors all want Peyton back on the field, ready to perform like he did 10 years ago — especially for all that money his agent got him. For some reason, many of think that we can defy nature and the aging process of one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game.

What is the impossible fix?

Reduce the activity that is causing the problem. This sounds like common sense, but when you earn a living by working hard all day on hard floors or turf, it’s hard to stop. Rest is a four letter word in our culture. Overdoing it and under undoing it is the norm, so here are some more tips.

Going cheap or fashionable instead of quality with footwear will give you more problems than just plantar fasciitis. Wear good stuff on your feet, especially if you pound on hard surfaces all day. Don’t fall into the barefoot trap, as our feet do not function well barefoot on man-made surfaces. However, barefoot walking and exercise on natural surfaces will help reduce PF symptoms and has many other advantages.

Stretching helps, but mostly in a preventative way. Getting PF is a great motivator to keep up with a simple stretching routine, and then forget about it once the pain goes away.

Rehydrate the tissue. Not by pouring water on it, but by gently smashing it with firm pressure. Some people call this myofascial release. There are many options for you here. Massage therapists, athletic trainers, physical therapists and a few smart personal trainers have noninvasive methods for you to try to force circulation and lymphatic drainage to the affected tissue, thus healing it faster.

Custom orthotics and other noncustom inserts help reduce acute pain, but once again this is a preventative action that really helps over the long haul.

Prevention and early detection are the best way to avoid PF and almost everything else. Regular stretching of the foot and lower leg muscles, good footwear, quality arch and foot bed support, a good diet and myofascial release are the best known ways to reduce symptoms of PF and many other problems.

Note: I am proposing that we make November Plantar Fasciitis Awareness Month. I’m going to ask Peyton if he’ll be the celebrity ambassador for the PF Foundation. The symbol for it could be a flaming foot. Maybe Peyton could get a job at Good Feet with Ed McCaffrey? They could hand out Red Hots, Hot Tamales and Atomic Fireballs at the awareness meetings instead of pink M&Ms (all organic, sugar free and fair trade variety of course).

Steve Wells is a personal trainer and co-owner of Midland Fitness. His column appears on Tuesdays.


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