What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia tissue found in the arch of the foot is damaged or torn. Increased pressure to this area can cause inflammation, stiffness and pain to the heel.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of plantar fasciitis include sensitivity and pain under the soul of the foot and around the heel. Stiffness and discomfort is usually more intense in the morning, due to lack of movement overnight.
What are the causes?
Damage to this area can occur from general wear and tear, and is a common side-effect of high-impact sports such as running. Repetitive strain to the tissue can cause the plantar fascia to thicken, leaving it less able to act as a shock absorber for the foot.
Being overweight can also increase the risk of heel pain, due to the excess pressure and strain exerted on the foot.
Exercises for heel pain
Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain, and there are a number of easy exercises to help relieve discomfort and stiffness
Stay seated and roll a water bottle kept frozen in the freezer under the arch of your foot. Apply increasing pressure and rotate the object back and forth for 3-4 minutes, then switch feet. This exercise is best completed in the mornings when pain is particularly acute, and can double up as an effective cold therapy to relieve inflammation.
Place one foot in front of the other and put your hands flat against the wall in front of you. Keep your front knee bent and your back leg straight. Lean towards the wall and pull your back heel towards the floor to stretch your Achilles tendon. Ease out of the stretch, and repeat 10 times with each leg.
Whilst sat on a chair, use an exercise strap (or fold a towel to make one) and place under the arch of your foot. Keep your leg straight and grasp the ends of the strap towards you with straight arms. Gently pull your toes towards your body for a deep stretch. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat 3 times with both legs.
For a deeper stretch on your calf muscles and Achilles, plant your toes firmly on a step (stairs in your home work well) and allow your heels to hang off the back. Lower your heels slowly towards the bottom of the step and back up again. Repeat 5 times.
Set a handful of marbles or pebbles on the floor next to a mug. Whilst sat on a chair, use your toes to pick up each marble and place them in the mug.
These stretches and strengthening exercises will help to improve the flexibility of the plantar fasciitis, which will ensure greater support to the arch of the foot and reduce the level of stress exerted on the ligament.
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