Icing for Heel Pain

Icing is important for any injury, including plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is an overuse injury caused by too much exercise, prolonged standing or a sedentary lifestyle and can lead to small tears and strain in the plantar fascia ligament. Icing the plantar fascia can reduce pain and swelling, which allows the ligament to heel faster. So, what is the best way to ice your plantar fascia?

I have three favorite "types" of ice relief for heel pain, plantar fasciitis, and heel spurs. A Ziploc bag filled with crushed or cubed ice is the traditional way of icing. You can even add just a little water to allow the bag to contour to your foot.

The second option is a bag of frozen corn or peas from the freezer section in your grocery store. After you have used the bag, you can refreeze it and use it again (but not to eat!) Another type of reusable icing option is the gel packs that can be either heated or frozen, once the gel packs have warmed up, just pop them back in the freezer for next time.

The final option, which perhaps is the best, is to keep paper or Styrofoam cups in the freezer filled with water. When you are ready to use the cup of ice, peel away the top of the cup to expose the ice and then massage the ice cup over your foot in a circular motion. As the ice melts, just peel away the cup so the ice is always exposed.

Please be sure to prevent frostbite by placing a protective layer in between your skin and the ice (unless the ice is in constant motion, as with the ice cup). A thin hand towel or a few layers of paper towels will protect your skin from frostbite. If you feel like you are losing feeling or have a "pins and needles", remove the ice immediately and if your skin does not warm up within 45 minutes and normal sensation does not return, contact your doctor.

After you choose which ice option you prefer, it's now time to apply the ice. The best time to ice is as quickly as possible following a strain on the plantar fascia, such as after a long day of standing on your feet, exercising or anything else that causes your plantar fasciitis to flare up and cause you pain. It is most effective when the ice is applied within 2 hours of ending your activity, and after 48 hours the effect of icing diminishes.

Once you have applied the ice, make sure that you move the ice around often to keep your skin from getting too cold and if you are using the paper cup method, massage the ice into the painful area. Remember that while you are icing, whether you are using the paper cup method or stagnate icing, to keep your foot elevated, preferably above the heart, to reduce any swelling and keep stress off of the foot.

Be careful not to ice for too long, the best time frame for icing is 15-20 minutes. After 20 minutes, the ice can cause further damage to the tissue, such as frostbite. After 20 minutes allow your skin to warm for at least 45 minutes and normal sensation has returned. You can repeat the icing process as many times as you would like, being mindful to allow 45-60 minutes for the skin to warm in between.

Plantar Fascia Icing:
A great way to ice and actively massage your plantar fascia is similar to the rolling pin exercise. Place some plastic water bottles in the freezer until frozen. Place the frozen water bottle under the arch of your foot and roll back and forth under your foot, all the way to the toes and to the center of the heel. This will ice and massage your plantar fascia, in one simple and clean step! Plus the water bottles can be frozen again for the next treatment.

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