Stretching your tired feet with exercises that stop plantar fasciitis in its tracks

Heel pain? Most likely, it’s plantar fasciitis, which results from excessive strain on the plantar fascia, a fibrous band of tissue that supports the arch of the foot. Too much loading or pressure causes microtears on the tissue, leading to inflammation, pain and stiffness.

Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of pain on the bottom of the heel, which accounts for approximately 2 million patients being treated each year. People who are obese, have high foot arches or tight calves and are involved in repetitive activity or high-impact sports, such as running, are at risk.

A recent study revealed that stretching exercise could resolve acute plantar fasciitis (pain for less than six weeks) better than radial shockwave therapy (chronic pain modality that uses acoustic pulses to stimulate the tissues to heal). Symptoms were found to improve after eight weeks of daily stretching (three times a day).

How to do the stretching? The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons described it as done in the seated position: Cross your affected foot over the knee of your other leg. Using the hand on your affected side, grasp the toes of your painful foot and pull the ankle and toes back up. Using the thumb of your unaffected side, gently rub the arch of the foot. The plantar fascia should feel firm or like a tight band. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds (or a count of 10). Repeat 10 to 20 times for each foot. Stretching is to be done first thing in the morning or before getting out of bed and before standing after a period of prolonged sitting.

Another way to stretch an inflamed plantar fascia is to sit with one leg stretched out
in front, then softly pull back the foot using a towel tugging around the ball of the foot.

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