How Plantar Fasciitis Exercises can Help
Plantar fasciitis is a leading cause of heel pain in Australians and one of the most common reasons for people to visit the sports podiatrist, as they enquire about plantar fasciitis exercises. Plantar fasciitis develops when the stress placed on the plantar fascia ligament causes micro-tearing and inflammation. Stress is usually due to overuse. As such, completing exercises and stretches regularly can assist with improving flexibility in the lower leg and foot, reducing the stress on the ligament.
When combined with other preventative and treatment measures- such as resting, icing, the use of recommended footwear and tailored orthotic inserts, shockwave therapy and more- exercises for plantar fasciitis can help in reducing heel pain and promoting healing of the damaged plantar fascia ligament.
How to Perform Exercises for plantar fasciitis
One of the hallmark signs of plantar fasciitis, is the intense heel pain that sufferers experience when they take their first steps out of bed in the morning. This pain is thought to be due to the plantar fascia ligament tightening during sleep. Taking the time to perform some simple exercises for a few minutes before walking around in the morning can help to alleviate that pain.
Stretches for Plantar Fasciitis to do Before you Get Out of Bed
Sit comfortably on the edge of your bed to complete the following exercises for plantar fasciitis:
- Foot Flexion/Extension: Extend your leg out in front of you and flex your toes up and down ten times, repeating for each foot
- Alphabet Stretch: Extend your leg out in front of you, and imagine your big toe is a pen. Trace out each letter of the alphabet, and repeat for the other foot
The stretches above are useful for promoting blood flow to the feet, loosening scar tissue and reducing the inflammation associated with plantar fasciitis.
Stretch for Plantar Fasciitis that can be Performed Any Time – Useful or Not?
It has been suggested, but there is little evidence to support the theory, that when you have a chance throughout the day, performing the following exercise can help relieve the heel pain caused by plantar fasciitis by assisting with strengthening the muscles of the foot and promoting blood flow to the area:
- Towel Pick-Up: Find a small towel and put it on the floor in front of you. While seated, use your toes to scrunch the towel and pick it up, all the while keeping your heel on the floor. Perform 10 times for each foot.
Good or Bad Stretches for Plantar Fasciitis?
Tight calf muscles are often at the root of the problem in cases of plantar fasciitis. Poor flexibility in the calves places biomechanical strain on the Achilles tendon and the plantar fascia ligament as the person walks, leading to the development of conditions such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis. The following exercises are suggestions for the types of exercises that you can perform that will help with increasing and maintaining flexibility in the calf muscles, improving the overall health of your lower legs and feet:
- Calf-Plantar Fascia Stretch: ( CAUTION ) – this stretch may irritate the plantar fascia while assisting with calf range. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you and knees straight. Fold or roll a towel long ways and put it around your feet at the level of the balls of your feet. Hold each end of the towel in each hand and gently pull back towards yourself. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds and repeat four times
- Floor Stretch: Stand next to a wall, placing your hands against it at shoulder height. Take a step back from the wall with both legs, and then another step back with the leg you’re wanting to stretch. Keeping the front knee slightly bent, slowly lean yourself in towards the wall until you feel the stretch in the back of your calf. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat four times and for each leg (CAUTION – foot must be supinated during stretch to avoid loading the plantar fascia)
- Stair Stretch: ( NOT RECOMMENDED) – Loads the plantar fascia! Stand on the edge of a stair or step with both heels hanging off the edge. Balance by holding onto a rail or something else solid. Keep the leg you wish to stretch straight, and slowly and controlled, drop your heel downwards so that you feel a slight stretch through the Achilles tendon and calf. Some of your bodyweight should still be on the supporting leg. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat 4 times, and for each leg.
Calf Stretches for Plantar Fasciitis can help to Relieve your Pain
Over time and with consistent practice, the flexibility in your muscles, ligaments and tendons will increase, reducing the causes and pain from plantar fasciitis. Before you commence a stretching program, it is important to consult a qualified sports podiatrist, who will thoroughly assess your condition, make a correct diagnosis and advise you on which stretched are appropriate for your condition.
Please keep in mind that the above information is for educational purposes and it should not be taken as general medical advice. If you have plantar fasciitis, you should consult a qualified sports podiatrist prior to commencing an exercise program. Appointments can be made online at https://www.sydneyheelpain.com.au/book-online/ or by phoning (02) 93883322.
Karl Lockett – sports podiatrist
Written by Karl Lockett