Luke Ferdinands, PT and Alleviate Founder
I've been a physical therapist to elite athletes and chronic pain sufferers for almost 20 years, and I've always used the latest research to guide my treatment protocols. For patients with chronic foot pain, plantar fasciitis, and heel spurs, science shows that Instrument-Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization effectively reduces pain by facilitating the healing of painful scar tissue. With IASTM, a physical therapist uses a specialized instrument (usually steel) in place of their hands to deliver a more acute, more specific massage treatment to problematic soft tissue. Read more about the science behind IASTM here.
I found that my plantar fasciitis patients’ ideal treatment plan included instrument-assisted mobilization twice a day for 5 minutes. However, traditional IASTM requires in-person treatment, and there was no way anyone would drive to the office twice a day for 5 minutes of massage. Also, no insurance would cover it, and it was unlikely anyone would pay for it out of pocket. So instead, I had to find a way for people to reap the benefits of this treatment at home.
At first, I gave patients a lacrosse ball for self-massage on the days they didn't come in to see me (this is why the lacrosse ball is a go-to at-home remedy: because it can do an ok job of recreating basic IASTM). The lacrosse ball method almost always kept symptoms from getting worse. My patients were able to put weight on the ball and generate enough pressure to massage their tissue, but the pressure wasn't specific enough to make real forward progress. This was especially true for patients with heel pain and pain on the inside of their arches.
Because the ball wasn't quite good enough, I tried teaching a few of my more enterprising patients how to use IASTM tools for self-treatment. Stainless steel IASTM tools are readily available online, and they allow patients to reach the exact spot that needs treatment. But even with these tools, it remained difficult for patients to generate enough force to effectively treat the heel and arch’s soft tissue -- it was much less effective than having a second person holding the tool.
The Alleviate team put our heads together to create something new to solve this issue. The solution needed 3 elements: 1) purpose-contoured to the most important trigger points of the foot like an IASTM tool, 2) hands-free and portable like a lacrosse ball, and 3) stable no matter how hard you grind your foot. I created the first model of the Arch Massager with my daughter’s Play-Doh. After landing on a design concept, we 3D-printed the subsequent few iterations of the Arch Massager and began testing it with patients.
The results were exciting. Finally, my patients were able to apply the right amount of pressure to the right parts of the foot, creating a change in the structure of their damaged tissue. The best part? In between PT appointments, my patients maintained their results and continued making progress towards eliminating the root cause of their pain.
Now, the Arch Massager is our best-seller, and it is a crucial part of our complete system of rehabilitative tools for healing Plantar Fasciitis pain. Read more about the Arch Massager here and Alleviate System here.