Drummers: Foot Pain Keeping You Off Beat? Your Guide to Plantar Fasciitis
Posted by Jenn F. on Monday, January 14th, 2013
We’ve visited plantar fasciitis before. It’s a very common injury that affects people in all lines of work. Plantar fasciitis is responsible for about a million doctor visits every year. In some professions, like mail carrying, it’s a difficult to manage disorder because healing requires rest. But in other professions it’s completely debilitating because the repetitive strain that caused the problem is an unavoidable part of the job. Enter: drummers. Drummers move their feet repetitively, making the same motions every day through a lifetime of playing. They hit the pedals with tightly controlled force, tensing the muscles in their feet and ankles to deliver just the right amount of sound. Of course, years and years of tensing the feet in the same exact way can cause terrible irritation. Indeed, it’s the primary cause of our good old enemy, plantar fasciitis.
To quickly recap: the plantar fasciia is the band of tissue that connects the ball of the foot to the heel. You can feel it when you flex your foot. It runs the length of your arch. Plantar fasciitis is a degenerative injury of the collagen in the fascia. Over time, small tears develop which can become irritated and inflamed. This causes the fascia to thicken and stiffen, resulting in pain. A thickened plantar fascia is less sinewy and is more susceptible to severe tears. Tight calf muscles can exacerbate the condition. In addition to the repetitive pressure and strain drummers put on their feet, they also tend to develop strong calf muscles. If they aren’t engaging in regular stretching, this can put them at particular risk.
For a professional drummer, resting the feet means not playing the drums. This can be the worst possible news in a profession where players are paid hourly, by the gig, and where health insurance and paid time off are totally foreign concepts. And for most musicians, being separated from an instrument is like losing your voice: it’s psychologically difficult, especially when recovery is lengthy. So what can a drummer do to avoid a plantar fascia emergency?
- Icing, anti-inflammatories, and rest will help relieve pain in the short term. If all you have is a minor irritation, this may be all that is required to make a complete recovery. Just remember: this is a repetitive strain injury so if you return to full activity before it has healed, you’ll be back where you started.
- Try to tone back your drumming, especially during practice. Intense playing may irritate your condition. The more rest you can give your feet, the better.
- Stretch your calf muscles every day, before you play and after.
- Wear a booty while you sleep that keeps the foot flexed to continually stretch and loosen the plantar fascia (image below).
- Even if your pain is minor, it’s a good idea to contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900). Your drumming is your livelihood: protect it by protecting your feet.
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.