What You Need to Know About Your Feet
The plantar surface of the foot is one of the most sensitive areas of the body. It's made up of multiple layers of local intrinsic musculature, along with neural vasculature in this region. Your feet provide the perfect opportunity to alleviate pain and dysfunction locally AND up the chain into the legs, pelvis, and even the spinal column.
What To Use
Because of the relatively small size of the muscles, distributing tendons and local neuromuscular junctions at the bottoms of the feet, you'll need a tool for trigger point work that matches the size of the targeted region. In this case, a lacrosse ball or even a golf ball – depending on your foot-size.
The bottoms of the feet are anatomically complex, so you need the proper neuromuscular trigger points to yield the highest results in terms of pain alleviation and functional transference.
Locate the Right Area
Look for the optimal area that's usually located right under the posterior aspect of the foot's arch. This location is home to the notorious plantar fascia, which gets much of the attention for local pain in this area. But keep in mind the neurological response that you're after. Look deeper anatomically and try to stimulate the neuromuscular junction of the medial and lateral plantar nerves, which will most likely cause the positive response you're needing.
Apply the Pressure
Apply pressure into the ball by distributing your bodyweight through the foot. This area will be hypersensitive, so shoot for a 6/10 relative pain level when self-treating. (On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest amount of pressure, go with about a level 6.)
Once you've applied proper pressure over the ball, don't roll the ball up and down the plantar surface, which is a common practice gone wrong. Instead, keep the ball stationary, then extend and fully flex your toes. This is a slow and controlled active remedy that'll place tension and a bit of internal motion on the medial and lateral plantar nerves. This drill has shown promise for alleviating pain and opening up functional ranges of motion.
A little goes a long way here, so spend the time to position the ball perfectly with optimal pressure and take 30-60 seconds flexing and extending all five toes under control.
How To Tell If It's Working
First, is your relative pain level reduced? Answering this should give you a clue. And second, use the toe-touch test. Before you even begin this trigger point work, simply test your toe touch (bend over and try to touch your toes). Notice your range of motion. Then after your trigger point work, retest to see if you've gained range of motion.