Plantar fasciitis is a disorder of the connective tissue (fascia) that reaches from the heel of the foot to the toes. While its primary job is to support the arch of the foot, it also helps determine a person’s balance and gait. When it becomes overstretched or inflamed it can cause varying degrees of pain in the heel and the bottom of the foot on impact with the ground, particularly when first bearing weight after a period of rest.
Several things can cause the condition, including long-distance running and other exercises that place a lot of stress on the heel area, individual foot mechanics, ill-fitting shoes, obesity, and age. Plantar fasciitis generally comes on gradually, is fairly self diagnosable, and treatable with rest and conservative therapies that don’t further stress or stretch the plantar fascia.
Following are some recommend exercises if you suffer from plantar fasciitis.
These gentle movements can be done before ever getting out of bed to help ease top-of-the-morning pain. Lying on your back, slowly flex the foot and toes back toward your face, and hold them in that position for three to five seconds. Repeat multiple times to help loosen up the heel end of the fascial tissues that may have tightened overnight. This can also be done from a chair before getting up after long periods of sitting.
From the same prostrate or seated position, try to curl your toes inward toward the balls of your feet as tightly as you can before unrolling them and spreading the toes apart as wide as they’ll go. This stretches the upper part of the band.
Upon standing, but before walking, grab onto support and gently rock back and forth from heel to toe to increase blood flow to the area and loosen up constricted tissues. Remember, the condition partly comes from the band being overstretched and not offering necessary support, so the goal is not to go super high onto the tips of the toes, but simply to achieve a gentle rocking motion.
From a seated position, place pencils, marbles, or other small objects on the floor and attempt to pick them up with your toes and hold them for a few seconds before dropping them again. This is a more active version of the toe extensions discussed above and is good for strengthening the fascial band.
Because the plantar fascia connects to the calf at the back of the foot, pain from plantar fasciitis often extends into the calf, and vice versa. Stretching the calf muscle can help relieve pain in both areas. A gentle way to stretch the calf is to stand on a step or curb, and let your heel hang off the back. Make sure that the edge of the step is not placing pressure on the arch of the foot and that you are holding onto something or someone for balance.
Remember that these movements are intended to be gentle so as not to further stress the plantar fascia and lengthen healing time. For this reason, deep massage, which is often helpful for other fascial pain, is not a good idea for plantar fasciitis. Mild rubbing or comfortably rolling the foot over a massage ball or muscle roller can help smooth out constrictions and relieve pain, but intense pressure to the area is not advised.
Even though pain is more likely to occur after physical activity than during, temporarily discontinue exercise that places stress on the heel or that further aggravates the injury. Rest, ice, and conservative therapies are best.
If you would like help diagnosing or treating plantar fasciitis, we at Dynamic Sports Medicine are here for you. We can show you which of the above exercises are best for you and the correct way to do them, as well as offer adjustments and other therapies, pain management techniques, and imaging to speed healing and reduce your risk of future injury.
Don’t let foot pain keep you down. Call us today.