Kim Holistic Foot & Ankle Center

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Podiatrist’s BLOG 8 – STRETCHING FOR HEEL PAIN

I myself have experienced deep, aching pain, first thing in the morning and whenever I was tired. Stretching really helped me with this problem. One of the best things you can do to help maintain your overall health is stretch. Stretching is a very important part of the daily routine in many cultures. Stretching loosens the tense muscles, ligaments, and tendons to improve symptoms of heel pain. Sufferers usually feel significant improvement within the first four to eight weeks of a regular stretching program.

REMEDY #7: STRETCHING

For all stretches in this program I use a short, two-foot-long dowel. Any stick will do as long as it’s straight, has a medium thickness, and won’t break when you apply pressure to it.

1. Lower Back
Dowel Front Bend: This stretches your lower back and hamstrings. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding the dowel loosely in front of you. Over four counts inhale as you bend forward, reaching the dowel as close to the ground as possible. Hold the stretch for two counts and then exhale as you return to the starting position.

2. Hip Flexors and Quadriceps
Dowel Scissors: This stretches the hip flexors, quadriceps, and hamstrings. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart; the dowel should be resting low in both hands. Move the right foot back as you lunge deeply with the left leg and inhale for four counts. Keep your back straight to feel more of a stretch in your hip flexor. Press the dowel against your front leg for support. Thrust your hips forward until you feel a gentle stretch in your hip flexors. Remember to keep your front knee directly over your foot to prevent overly stressing your knee. Hold this stretch for two counts. Next, rise back to the starting position over four counts, exhaling as you come up. Repeat with the left leg moving back.

3. Hamstring
Hamstring Stretch: Having a flexible hamstring benefits your whole body; it makes almost every motion easier. Lie flat on your back and extend your legs straight up to the ceiling. Do this three times a day.

4. Calf
Dowel Calf Stretch: This stretches the calf muscles and hamstrings. It is a lot like the Dowel Scissors above, except that your back heel doesn’t come off the ground. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and the dowel resting low in both hands. Take four counts to inhale and move your right foot behind you into a lunge. Keep the heel of the right foot on the ground as you bend your left knee, making sure to keep the left knee over the left foot. Hold this stretch for two counts and then return to the starting position over a four-count exhale. Repeat the whole movement and this time moving the left foot to the back and squatting with the right knee.

Night Splints: These devices are worn overnight to keep the plantar fascia flexed at a 90-degree angle and to stretch the calf, so you don’t experience pain when you take those first steps in the morning.Basically a brace wrapped around the lower leg, night splints help keep your foot still as if you were standing.

5. Plantar Fascia Stretch
I guide my stretches with the 10x10x3 formula.  This stands for 10 seconds of stretching that is repeated 10 times and done 3 times a day.

Taken from Jim Johnson’s excellent The 5-Minute Plantar Fasciitis Solution book, the following is the most effective stretch for plantar fasciitis that I’ve come across.  Although you may not see positive results right away, improvement will come after a month or two.

  • Do this stretch 3 times every day for about 5 minutes total.
  • Do the first stretch later in the morning instead of first thing after waking up, so the plantar fascia has time to loosen up.
  • Stretch again in the middle of the day after you’ve been sitting for a long period of time.  Make sure you do this stretch before you stand up in order to re-establish some flexibility before you put weight on your feet.
  •  In the evening, just before going to bed, is the best time for the last stretch.
        1. Sit with your legs crossed; place the affected foot over the opposite knee in a 90-degree angle and in a relaxed position.
        2. Use the hand on the same side to pull back at the toes, especially the big toe. Press along the plantar fasciitis gently with the opposite hand. If you’re doing this exercise correctly then you should feel tension there. Hold the pose for 10 seconds.
        3. Relax and repeat until you’ve done a set of 10 stretches

Be careful not to overstretch. It’s best when you feel a gentle pull and scale back or stop if you feel pain instead. After the heel pain is gone, stretch 3-4 times a week for maintenance. Stretching the foot three times a day is a very effective and easy way to relieve pain and tightness in the foot and heel. If your symptoms show improvement, continue to stretch every day. If your symptoms remain the same, stretching may not be the solution for you and you should seek a foot specialist. Go to 9MWellness.com to view all of the stretches and exercises.

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