A Stretch that Gets to the Sole of Plantar Fascia Pain
Think about your first steps in the morning out of bed. Do you hit the floor running, or do you hobble around in extreme pain? Many people with plantar fasciitis can only dream about running anytime of the day.
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the soft tissues on the bottom of the foot. It can cause mild to severe heel pain when putting the foot down and standing. Fortunately it doesn't last long for most people. But for those who still have pain months later, there's hope.
Physical therapists at Ithaca College have found a simple stretching exercise that works. While sitting on the edge of the bed, the patient crosses the painful leg over the knee of the other leg. If you are trying this yourself, pull the toes back toward the shin until a stretch is felt in the arch or plantar fascia.
The stretch is held for 10 seconds and repeated 10 times--before getting out of bed. The same stretch is done three times each day. In this study the plantar fascia stretching exercise was compared to the usual calf-stretching exercise for the Achilles tendon.
The Achilles tendon stretch is done against the wall. The calf to be stretched is back, and the heel is kept on the ground. You lean forward, supporting your upper body against the wall. This stretch can be done right after getting out of bed in the morning and repeated twice more during the day.
Stretching first thing in the morning is important to stop the cycle of small areas of tearing and inflammation that can cause the symptoms of plantar fasciitis in the first place. Patients doing plantar fascia stretching had better results. They had less pain and more function than those in the Achilles tendon stretching group. The researchers think this is because the plantar fascia stretch targets the soft tissues where the problem is located.
A simple stretching program of this kind may get you back on your feet faster. It's a possible option to surgery for the 10 percent of people who have plantar fasciitis that doesn't go away with time.
Benedict F. DiGiovanni, MD, et al. Tissue-Specific Plantar Fascia-Stretching Exercise Enhances Outcomes in Patients with Chronic Heel Pain. In Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. July 2003. Vol. 85-A. No. 7. Pp. 1270-1277.