Heel Pain Treatments: The Basics part 2, Stretching

Are you afraid of that sharp, searing pain in your heel when you get out of bed?  How about if you’ve been sitting for a while then try to get up?  That pain in the heel of your foot is no fun.  The official diagnosis is plantar fasciitis, which affects millions of people everyday.  Remember the problem involves inflammation of the muscles in your foot and those muscles all begin at the heel.  Why do these muscles become inflamed?  Some people’s feet work too hard.  The muscles are always tight and eventually get irritated or inflamed.

The treatment of plantar fasciitis is like building a pyramid.  The base has to be strong to support all higher levels.  In part one I talked about ice.  This is the beginning of relieving inflammation.  The next step is gently stretching these inflamed muscles.

Stretching:

Flexible strength is a big word in fitness.  What it means is that muscles that remain stretched are stronger than muscles that are always tight.  This is a huge part of avoiding injury, so stretching is key to keeping yourself healthy.  Since plantar fasciitis involves tight and over-worked muscles it makes sense that you need to stretch them in order to make the pain go away.  The actual muscles in your foot are difficult to stretch on their own, but if you stretch your calf muscles, you will actually help these foot muscles more than if you try to stretch your toes.

The stretch is known as a “runner’s stretch”.  The goal is to stretch your calf muscle more specifically known as the gastrocnemius muscle.  Stand about 2 feet away from a wall you are facing with your feet shoulders width apart.  Put your hands straight out in front of you at shoulder height and touch the wall.  If you can’t touch the wall you are too far away.  This is a one foot at a time stretch.  For argument sake, move your right foot back a little and your left foot forward a bit.  Now you are going to be stretching the right leg.  It is very important to make certain that the toes of your right foot are pointing straight at the wallIf your foot turns away from your body (out), you can injure your foot.  Keep your right heel on the ground, right knee straight, and bend your left knee slightly as you slightly bend your elbows and lean into the wall.  You will feel stretch in your calf.  If you feel stretch any place other than your calf, STOP, reposition yourself as described above.  Hold the stretch for a count of 30 seconds then change feet.  Repeat the stretch 3 times per day.  That’s it, just 3 minutes per day.

To make that horrible morning pain go away you can use a frozen water bottle or small foam roller.  Place the bottle on the floor while you are seated.  Rest your arch on the bottle (wear a sock if using the frozen water bottle) and roll for 30 minutes.  Don’t push hard, just allow the weight of your leg to do the work.  Do this as close to going to bed as possible.