Plantar fasciitis (PLANT-er fash-EYE-tis) causes a stabbing-like pain in the heel of the foot. It usually occurs in only one foot, but can affect both as well. Sometimes, the pain is felt in the arch or on the ball of the foot.
It is most common in runners, athletes and women between 40 and 60. Heel pain is caused by stress placed on the plantar fascia ligaments (under the bottom of the foot) when it is stretched abnormally, resulting in tears and inflammation. Strengthening and stretching exercises aid the ligament in becoming more flexible and can strengthen muscles that support the arch.
If you combine stretching and strengthening exercises with rest, icing (after exercise), shoe inserts and mild pain relievers you will have a better chance of pain relief.
Here are some exercises for plantar fasciitis:
Stretching exercises (stretch fascia and the Achilles tendon):
- Regular Calf Stretch: Stand with your hands on a wall. Keeping the right leg straight with the heel flat on the ground, step forward approximately 24 to 30 inches with the left foot, then lean forward, bending the left knee. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and do 2 to 4 repetitions. Do this stretch 3 to 4 times a day, 5 days a week.
- Plantar Fascia and Calf Stretch: Stand on a step, holding on to the railing. Your toes should be on the step, with the heels off the step. Slowly lower your heels down over the edge of the steps. You should feel a stretch across the bottom of your foot. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, then bring your heel back up to the level of the step. Repeat 2 to 4 times.
- Towel Curls: Sitting down, place your foot on a towel on the floor and scrunch the towel toward you with your toes. Next, using your toes, push the towel away. Repeat 2 to 4 times.
- Marbles: Put marbles on the floor next to a cup. Sitting down, lift the marbles up with your toes and put them in the cup.
Remember to avoid running on hard surfaces if you have plantar fasciitis. Wear good athletic shoes when you exercise and replace them regularly. Always stretch before activity and gently massage your feet after to promote circulation and relaxation.
I sometimes give golf balls to my clients with plantar fasciitis. Rolling the golf ball with the affected part of the foot provides a massage effect.
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