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Diana Remaley, LMT
Diana@RemaleyMassage.com
(203)292-5362
19 Compo Road South
Westport, CT

A Plantar Foot Stretch

Dealing with stubborn heel pain? This movement can help!

Plantar fasciitis is rampant. In fact, I'm starting to think practitioners just diagnose this to describe any pain on the bottom of the foot. While true plantar fasciitis is complicated and a little more than we can cover in one blog post stretch, strengthening the lower legs with this movement can help affect heel pain.

A few years ago, I had a nasty case of plantar fasciitis myself. In future posts, I'll explore how I alleviated it, but for now, I'll show you one of the easiest stretches to help any non-specific heel pain. You'll need an exercise band; there's really no substitute for it here. I like doing it at the end of the day while laying in bed, but you could do it seated at your desk, or even as part of your daily workouts.

Anatomy Lesson:

The two major muscles in the calf group are the "soleus" and "gastrocnemius." These attach from about the knee to the heel bone ("calcaneus") and it's this heel attachment that's critical: If the calf muscles are chronically overused, they're going to pull on the calcaneus, essentially yanking the foot toward the heel. Over time, this will irritate the connective tissue ("fascia") that holds the foot together. "Fasciitis" is simply an inflammation of this connective tissue. Managing fasciitis is therefore about reducing physical inflammation AND reducing the factors that contributed to the inflammation in the first place. Calf group tension is usually first on that list.

This movement is useful to strengthen the calf muscle group, and it's that strength built over time that will eventually help stop the heel from pulling and irritating the fascia.

The Movement

(This is kind of a half-stretch-half-strengthening exercise, so I'm calling it a "movement" because it fits in to neither category neatly.)

Barefoot, either lying down or sitting, hook the band around the ball of your foot. It should fit nicely in to the crook of your arch. Hold the other end with your hands. (The band should be long enough that you don't feel like you're going to snap it with this length.)

Bend your arms up, gently pulling the band to make your toes move up to about a 45 degree angle to your lower leg. Lower, SLOWLY, but don't intentionally point your toes, just let your foot go back to it's natural position. Repeat 5 times, as slowly as you can handle, pointing the toes and puling them back. The slow movement is key here; it you move too quickly, you're just using momentum to move the muscles. Slowly moving forward as well as backward, means you're using the muscles both concentrically and eccentrically, which is just a fancy way to say you're using them more efficiently and effectively.

When my foot was at it's worst, I'd spend about 10 minutes at the end of each day with this movement. Try to distract yourself by watching TV while you're doing it! If you notice any pain or burning in the heel, back off a bit. That usually indicates that the fascia is still irritated, and there's little point in irritating it further. Try doing the movement only once or twice instead of for a few minutes. Remember that training our muscles takes time. If it took you months, years, or even a lifetime to develop the patterns involved in plantar fasciitis, so you're not going to fix them in a week!

Massage therapy is an incredibly effective adjunct to treatment for plantar fasciitis. I've helped myself and many others through it! I'll see you in my Westport office!

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Diana Remaley, LMT
Diana@RemaleyMassage.com
(203)292-5362
19 Compo Road South
Westport, CT