It’s 5:30 am and your alarm just went off to remind you to get up for your morning run. As soon as your feet hit the floor you let out a muffled scream so you don’t wake your still sleeping husband. That awful plantar fasciitis is at it again. But now you have hope. As you chugged down a cup of Starbucks you noticed an article in the New York Times called “Can I get relief for plantar fasciitis?”.
As a Seattle podiatrist, plantar fasciitis is one of the most common complaints bringing patients to my door. At the Foot and Ankle Center of Lake City in Seattle we have a comprehensive approach to treating heel pain. Often we find that patients have equinus or tight calf muscles. The article in the Times cites a recent study published in the August edition of the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports that focuses on reducing tight calf muscles by stretching.
The article talks about stretching in a very specific way; standing barefoot on a stair or box with a towel and elevating the toes of the affected foot with the heel extending over the edge of the stair or box.
The good leg hangs free bending slightly at the knee. It goes on to describe the exercise in detail. The group that received the new exercise was compared to a control group that stretched the calf by pulling their toes toward their shins 10 times, three times a day. The group that did the box or stair stretching had vast improvements in pain relief and disability with little improvement from the control group.
Although we’ve not tried the box stretching with our patients, stretching is well known to help heal plantar fasciitis. Here is what we recommend:
1. Don’t begin stretching until the inflammation has reached a low enough level that you aren’t exacerbating the situation. Stretching on an already inflamed heel can make things worse.
2. Stretching has to be significant enough to make a difference – the box stretch is a good example of this. Our patients use a splint for 30 minutes at a time 1-2 times a day while watching TV with their leg up and knee straight.
3. Although you might be excited about trying a new method for healing your plantar fasciitis on your own, it’s best to work with a podiatrist who can also assess what else might be causing your heel pain such as correctly faulty foot mechanics.
So before you grab onto the nearest step, call our Seattle podiatry office at 206-368-7000 or request an appointment online.