Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel pain. A January 2012 article in the "Annals of Internal Medicine" reported that 2 million Americans are affected annually, resulting in 1 million doctor visits. The plantar fascia is a thick band that runs along the base of the foot, connecting the heel to the toes and supporting the arch. Injury to this tissue typically results from overuse or being overweight. Plantar fasciitis can be slow to heal, but a commitment to daily stretching of the arch and calf may be effective in providing pain relief.
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Stretching Is the Preferred Treatment
A 2014 review in "The Permanente Journal" reported that plantar fascia-specific stretching has been shown to yield the best long-term results compared to other treatments like antiinflammatories and steroid injections. Stretching of the arch may be prescribed by your doctor, especially if you've had heel pain for an extended time. A June 2012 article in "Foot and Ankle International" reported that a majority of orthopedic surgeons favored plantar fascia-specific stretching and physical therapy as the preferred next step in treatment for people who continue to experience heel pain beyond 4 months.
To stretch the arch, sit on the floor with legs extended. Place a towel around the ball of the foot. Pull back on the towel to create a stretch in the arch. Hold for 30 seconds, release, and repeat twice more. Another stretch for the plantar fascia is combined with massage for greater benefit. Seated in a chair, cross the foot over the opposite knee. Pull the toes back with 1 hand and massage the arch with the other. Stretch and massage for 1 minute followed by 30 seconds of rest. Complete 3 sets of these stretches daily.
Plantar Fascia Roll
Another option for stretching the plantar fascia involves rolling the arch on a soup can or tennis ball. Roll the plantar fascia for 1 minute, and rest for 30 seconds. Complete 3 sets 3 times daily. Consider keeping a tennis ball at your desk or next to your favorite chair. Make a habit of rolling the arch while you talk on the phone or watch TV. You may also use a frozen water bottle for this purpose, allowing you to ice while you stretch.
According to the American Physical Therapy Association, increased flexibility in the calf muscle may also help alleviate plantar fasciitis pain. Stand facing a wall, with your feet hip-distance apart. Place both hands on the wall. Step back with one foot into a split stance, keeping toes pointed forward and both feet flat on the floor. Stretch the rear leg both with the knee flexed and bent, keeping both heels on the floor. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds. Complete 3 sets on each leg 3 times a day.