Plantar Fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain in adults. The plantar fascia is a thick band of fibrous connective tissue that attaches to the heel bone, runs across the bottom of the foot and then fans out to connect at the base of each toe. It provides support for the arch of the foot, helps to lift the arch during normal walking, and acts as a shock absorber during walking and running.
Tightness in the muscles of the leg can result in disproportionate stress being applied to the plantar fascia during walking and running, increasing the risk of injury. Icing, rest, and use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can relieve the pain but do little to treat the underlying causes of plantar fasciitis. Regular stretching is not only an effective treatment for the pain but is also effective to reduce recurrence of the painful condition.
3 stretches to help prevent and treat heel pain include the following:
- Wall Stretch:
The gastrocnemius is one of the major muscle groups in the calf. To stretch this muscle, place your hands against the wall and stand with both feet flat on the floor, one foot forward of the other. Keep the rearmost leg straight and the foot pointed straight ahead with your heel firmly on the ground. Lean forward without arching the back, placing your weight on the forward leg while bending it at the knee. You should feel stretching in the mid-calf of the straight leg. Hold the stretch for 60 seconds, release, and then reverse the position of the legs and then stretch the other leg. Repeat this twice to stretch the RIGHT leg twice and the LEFT leg twice as well.
2. Towel Plantar Fascia Stretch:
The plantar fascia can be easily stretched while sitting. Sit on a chair or on the edge of a bed or floor. Use a towel at the ball of the shin while keeping the leg straight until a stretch is felt in the bottom of the foot. Repeat the exercise for each foot holding the stretch for 60 seconds. The exercise is particularly effective when done before taking the first steps of the day and after prolonged sitting or inactivity.
3. Rolling Stretch
The rolling stretch is another simple way to stretch the plantar fascia. To perform the exercise, sit on the edge of the bed and place your foot on a hard-cylindrical object called a foot roller. Some people use a frozen water bottle. Roll the foot over the object while maintaining pressure against it. You want to make sure that you push down and away, and then roll it back to your heel. Continue rolling for 30-60 seconds, stops, and then repeat for each foot a total of four times.
Heel pain can become extremely painful and debilitating. Remember, foot pain is never normal!
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