Two Easy Exercises For Plantar Fasciitis That Really Work!
Whilst our main focus here at HealthySpines.org is on helping people with back pain, we have found a couple of simple, useful exercises for Plantar Fasciitis seem to work really well in relieving the crippling pain it causes.
All it takes is exactly five and a half minutes twice a day, and you can get relief from Plantar Fasciitis! Depending on how long you have had Plantar Fasciitis the exercises can work in just a few days, or in chronic cases, it can take several weeks.
But first, a quick explanation on what Plantar Fasciitis is, and what usually causes it.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar Fasciitis is the most common form of heel and foot pain. The Plantar Fascia is a flat, ligament like tissue that runs along the sole of your foot from your heel bone to your toes. It's job is to help support the arch of your foot.
Plantar Fasciitis occurs when this ligament gets strained or pulled. Repeated strains can even lead to micro-tears of the Plantar Fascia. This causes the ligament to become inflamed, weak, swollen and irritated and therefore PAINFUL. Read more about inflammation here.
This straining and inflammation usually occurs where the plantar fascia inserts into the heel bone. This is why you will usually feel Plantar Fasciitis pain under your heel.
Most people with Plantar Fasciitis have pain in their foot when they take their first steps after they get out of bed in the morning, or after they have been sitting for a long time. You may have less stiffness and pain after you take a few steps, but then your foot may hurt more as the day goes on.
You may also get some aching and throbbing in the evening, or even severe pain after sport or exercise.
The pain of Plantar Fasciitis can be acute, and can last up to five years. So most people that use this easy fix are over the moon when they notice changes!
There are many factors that can contribute to the development of Plantar Fasciitis, but they all result in one thing. Too much stress and strain on the Plantar Fascia ligament.
The main things that will cause this excessive load are:
- Being overweight.
- Your feet roll inward too much when you walk (pronation).
- You walk, stand, or run for long periods of time, particularly if this is on hard surfaces.
- Your shoes don't fit correctly, or are worn out.
- You have high arches or flat feet.
- You have tight calf muscles, or Achilles tendon.
One of the main problems are all the hard surfaces we have to walk on every day at home, work, shopping, school, sports surfaces. There is a lot of concrete out there!
This has lead to footwear that is softer and more cushioned, but lacks support and stability. Unfortunately this weakens the arch of your foot, making it more susceptible to injury.
Exercises For Plantar Fasciitis.
All it takes is two very easy exercises for Plantar Fasciitis that are almost guaranteed to give relief.
Once you have the pain under control, there is also a series of extra exercises that you can do. These extra exercises help strengthen and stabilise the arch of your foot. This is extremely important as the foot arch is our first bit of spring or suspension to absorb the impact of us moving around. Weak arches can not only cause Plantar Fasciitis, but can also lead to back, hip and knee problems due to the jarring affect of walking without any shock absorption. More on this later.
Okay, so the first thing you need to do is get the inflamed ligament to settle down.
Inflammation is a not just a leading cause of pain, but also is a major factor in most chronic disease such as heart disease, many cancers and arthritis. We recommend taking the world's best natural anti-inflammatory to help decrease inflammation. This has been proven to also fight many diseases including Alziemers', and even cancer. Check it out!
Okay, so get a regular plastic bottle of water and put it in your freezer.
Once it has frozen solid, get the bottle out of the freezer and place it on the floor. Then simply roll your foot back and forth on the bottle with as much gentle downward pressure as you can take for 5 minutes.
This can be quite uncomfortable, you may need to let the bottle warm up for a few minutes first so it doesn't freeze your foot! Just make sure it is still cold when you use it. This also helps to give the plantar fascia a releasing stretch.
The next thing you want to do is to give your calf muscles a good stretch.
Studies show that the best results for improving plantar fasciitis include stretching of the Achilles Tendon with the foot and toes in dorsiflexion.
Face a wall about 4 feet away. Bring your painful foot back a little, then lean against the wall, leaving your affected foot right behind you. Try to push your heel to the floor so you can feel a strong stretch in the back of your lower leg. It should not hurt, but you want to feel it!
You don't need to bounce or move around, just hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds. Done!
This simple stretch helps to take some of the tension and strain off the Plantar Fascia, which will allow it to start to heal.
An even more effective way to do this stretch is to stand with your toes on the edge of a step and let your heel drop down.
Do both the icing and the stretching twice a day.
Unlike taking pain killers, you can't overdose on this. So if you feel like doing it more, go for it. Just be sure you are not overdoing the stretches at the start.
That's all there is to it. This simple routine works most of the time! Although it does not work for absolutely everyone, it is so cheap and easy that it is worth a try. Just remember it can take several weeks if you have been suffering with Plantar Fasciitis for a long time. Remember to also try the natural anti-inflammatory turmeric.
Next, a list of exercises to strengthen and stabilise your foot arches.
Our feet have arches that act as springs to absorb the impact as we walk and run, kind of like the suspension system in your car.
A spring changes shape when you press on it (squashes down) and then bounces back when you let go. Your foot arches do exactly the same, flattening as you step on to them. This compression of the arch stores energy that bounces back when you lift your foot, helping to propel you forward when you walk.
Unfortunately, the arches commonly weaken over time as a result of injuries, incorrect gait (walking) patterns, and ill fitting footwear. This usually involves locking of the joints in the feet and weakening of the muscles that support the arch. Without the correct springing in the fore foot, every step literally jars through your body, slowly damaging and misaligning knees, hips and your spine. One example of this is flat feet.
A common solution for a weakened arch is to fit orthotics or inserts to lift up the arch. This is a fine short term aid, but long term use will lead to further weakening of the arches, just as wearing a back brace or girdle will weaken the spinal support muscles over time.
Some studies have shown that wearing Silicone Heel Pads along with stretching the Achilles Tendon and Plantar Fascia is more effective than wearing a custom made insert (hard orthotic) and stretching.
The first step to strengthening your arch is to make sure all the joints in the foot are moving freely. Be sure to take off all footwear before starting.
Start by sitting in a chair and writing the alphabet with each foot. This takes each foot through a wide range of movements. Then grab a golf ball or a hard bottle and roll your foot back and forth over it to massage and release the tissues in the bottom of your foot.
Next, try to mobilize the joints in your foot by grabbing hold of each foot one at a time, and gently push and pull it around. If you find any tender points apply gentle, consistent pressure for 30 seconds. Finally, stretch your calf muscles for 30 seconds each side.
The next step is to strengthen the arch support muscles. It is critically important that you are barefoot for these exercises.
1. Pick up some small coins or something similar with your toes. Do this for 2 minutes with each foot.
2. Clock lunges. Imagine you are standing in the middle of a large clock face. 12 o’clock is on the ground in front of you, 3 o’clock to your right, 6 o’clock directly behind, and 9 o’clock to your left.
Lunge straight forward to 12 o’clock with your right foot then spring back to the centre. Again with your right foot, lunge to 1 o’clock and back, then 2 o’clock and so on to 6 o’clock.
Next, change to your left foot and lunge back to 6 o’clock then return to the centre. Continue around through 7 o’clock and so on to 12 o’clock.
Repeat 5 times. Two very important things to remember:
Firstly do not land on your heel as this will jar through your body and lock up your joints. Try to land and spring off the front of your foot.
Secondly keep your toes pointed forward towards 12 o’clock at all times. The idea is to strengthen the arch in all angles.
3. Figure 8 walk. Walk in a figure 8 motion over a 5 to 6 metre distance (or zigzag walk).
Again make sure you are barefoot. Slowly increase your speed from week to week to the point where you are almost running.
4. Star jumps. What a great all over exercise. Start slow and do as many as you can, then try to beat it!
Lastly, after doing all the hard work, you want to be sure you are walking correctly so you don’t undo your good work.
Try to walk barefoot as often as possible, as most cushioned shoes restrict the normal range of movement of the foot joints, weaken the arch support muscles and develop an unnatural heal strike walk.
Try not to land hard on your heal when walking but rather lightly ‘stroke’ the ground with your heel, transferring your weight through to your forefoot, as this helps to absorb shock.
Also,use your second toe as a compass to point in the direction where you are walking so your feet are pointing straight ahead, and not out to the sides.
So there you go, that's all you need to know to put the spring back in your step!
Plantar Fascia-Specific Stretching Exercise Improves Outcomes in Patients with Chronic Plantar Fasciitis.
Comparison of Custom and Prefabricated Orthoses in the Initial Treatment of Proximal Plantar Fasciitis. Foot & Ankle International April 1999 vol. 20 no. 4 214-221
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