Performing certain leg stretching exercises is extremely important to reduce the painful symptoms of plantar fasciitis.
By definition plantar fasciitis is a condition where the tissue on the bottom of the foot becomes inflamed creating pain in the arch of the foot and heel. The plantar fascia connects the heel bone to the toes supporting the arch.
After repeated strains of the arch, the ligament structure (plantar fascia) becomes weak, swollen and inflamed thus causing foot pain especially with weight bearing.
Bio mechanically the plantar fascia is designed to absorb the stress of weight bearing but when there is too much strain tears start to occur in the tissue. The natural response to this type of overuse is irritation and inflammation.
Here we will discuss the causes and prevention of plantar fasciitis and the role leg stretching exercises play.
Plantar fasciitis is not a result of a specific injury but falls into the category of an overuse injury. Patients prone to plantar fasciitis exhibit certain risk factors (1) tight calf muscles causing limited motion in the ankle (decreased dorsiflexion) (2) overweight (3) pronated feet or fallen arches (4) high arch and (5) repetitive impact sports such as jogging, soccer or basketball.
The symptoms of plantar fasciitis that are common to this condition are (1) pain near the heel of the foot with palpation and weight bearing (2) acute pain at the bottom of foot when getting out of bed in the morning or after sitting for a long period. Pain subsides with a few minutes of ambulation and (3) increased pain after exercise not during. All of these symptoms point to the importance of leg stretching exercises.
Initial treatment is to decrease the inflammation utilizing ice, rest and anti-inflammatory medication. The best method for icing is rolling your foot over a cold water bottle. Rest includes decreasing the activity that makes the pain worse or changing the surface you run on. The typical medication used for this condition is ibuprofen and naproxen. A physical therapist can implement modalities to reduce inflammation faster. Modalities such as electrical stimulation, ultra sound and cold laser are effective. It is recommended to wear supportive shoes and change them when there is noticeable wearing. With stubborn cases of plantar fasciitis the doctor or physical therapist can advise patients to use night splints to stretch the plantar fascia while sleeping.
The primary cause of plantar fasciitis is tight calf musculature so the most effective way to relieve the pain is by leg stretching exercises. This is accomplished by calf stretching and stretching the plantar fascia. Calf stretch is performed against the wall leaning forward with one knee straight back and the other knee bent forward. The stretch is felt on the straight leg. The patient can do this 15-20 times each leg with a 10 second hold a few times per day. Stretching the plantar fascia is performed with the patient sitting and legs crossed. Grasp the toes of the involved foot supported by the other leg and slowly stretch the toes toward you. Perform this 20 times and hold each for 10 seconds. Should be done a few times per day.
With varied treatments of plantar fasciitis you undergo the underlying causes of the condition remain. The patient must continue with preventive measures such as leg stretching exercises, wearing supportive shoes, utilizing orthotic devices, reducing activity level and changing running surfaces to keep the symptoms from returning.