Plantar fasciitis is the one of the most common causes of foot and heel pain, stemming from damage to the plantar fascia, the flat ligament band that connects the heel bone to the toes and supports the foot arch. If this band of tissue is strained, stretched, or damaged by small tears, plantar fasciitis can result. Many factors can cause these injuries, including walking, standing, or running for long periods, obesity, poorly fitting shoes, a tight Achilles tendon, and feet that roll inward. Along with rest and wearing the correct shoes, stretching and caring for this tissue is one of the best ways to ease plantar fasciitis pain and restore strength.
Flexing the foot is a simple stretch to do first thing in the morning before you even get out of bed, to immediately begin loosening the plantar fascia that has tightened overnight. Remain lying in bed and flex your feet toward your face, hold for a count of three then relax. Repeat ten times before getting up. A gentle foot massage can also help relieve any stiffness or pain that might have developed while sleeping.
The toe scrunch and splay is another exercise set to do while still lying down in bed. With a relaxed foot, scrunch your toes as much as you can, then splay them out and up toward the ceiling, as wide as possible. Try not to move your foot too much; you are just working your toes, here. Hold for a count of three then relax. Repeat five times or more if necessary.
As soon as your feet touch the floor, you can do some heel and toe raises. Sit on the edge of the bed with your feet flat on the floor in front of you, hip-width apart. From here, rock your feet back onto the heels and then forward, high onto the ball of your foot, keeping your toes on the ground. Rock back and forth at a steady pace. Repeat this 30 times. Then, stand up and do another 30 repetitions. This exercise increases blood flow to the area and helps warm the tissue and increase flexibility.
Sometimes the simplest stretches are the most effective. Sitting in a chair, extend your right leg out in front of you so that the heel is on the floor. Reach down and grab your big toe. Gently pull it up and back toward you, away from the floor. Hold this for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat two to four times on each leg. This exercise can be performed throughout the day because it won't cause muscle fatigue and is a gentle, unobtrusive stretch for the ligaments.
Sitting on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, hold a rolled-up towel at both ends and place it under the ball of your right foot. Keeping your knee straight but not locked, gently pull the towel toward you. Keep your back as straight as you can and try not to let your leg rise off the floor. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat on each leg two to four times. Make sure the towel is under the ball of your foot, not placing pressure on the arch.
This a great exercise for encouraging movement and flexibility in the feet. Sit on a chair with your foot on a towel on the floor. The first movement is to scrunch the towel up with your toes, moving the towel, so it collects under your foot. Once you have reached the end of the towel, begin to push it back away from you with your toes. To make it tougher, place an object on the end of the towel, such as a can of soup; this will require slightly more effort to bring the end of the towel toward you. Repeat ten times, once or twice a day.
To strengthen the toes and feet, you need to use them in ways you wouldn't normally, such as picking up marbles with the toes. Sit in a chair and place five to 20 marbles next to a cup on the floor in front of you. Using your toes, grab each marble and put it in the container. This exercise will get easier the more you practice. Rest as necessary since cramping can occur until your toes get stronger.
A simple calf stretch can go a long way toward relieving calf problems, pain in the Achilles tendon, and plantar fasciitis. Stand facing a wall. Place your hand on the wall at eye level. Put your right leg one step behind you, in line with your front foot. Keeping the heel on the floor, bend your front knee until you feel the stretch in the calf. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat with the other leg then return to a neutral position. Repeat the whole process three more times.
Do this exercise before and after any activity. Stand on a step with your arches and heels hanging out over the edge. Make sure you hold on to something for balance and safety. Take a breath and begin to relax your calf muscles, slowly letting your heels down over the edge of the step. You should feel a gentle stretch from the bottom of your foot up the back of your leg and to the back of the knee. Hold this for 15 to 30 seconds, then move back to the start position Repeat three times.
Sitting on a chair, place a rolling pin under your foot. Roll the rolling pin along the length of your foot, starting at the heel and applying pressure as you go. This should massage the entire length of the plantar fascia. You can also do this exercise with a tennis ball, but a rolling pin allows more of a fixed forward-and-back motion. The same exercise can be done standing, which allows you to apply more pressure.
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