Reduce heel pain by massaging and stretching the foot.
Heel pain and/or plantar fasciitis are common foot ailments. They are sometimes one and the same problem, though heel pain can come from various other causes. The plantar fascia is a fibrous band of tissue that attaches from the underside of the heel to the ball of the foot. It helps support the arch of the foot and helps absorb the shock of forces transmitted from the ground to the leg. The plantar side (under side) of the foot also contains toe flexors and other foot muscles. Trigger points or knots in these muscles and inflammation of the plantar fascia can contribute to heel or plantar foot pain. Massaging and stretching these body tissues can be helpful in restoring pain-free function.
How to Stretch the plantar fascia.
- Sit on a chair.
- Rest your right ankle on left thigh.
- Reach for your toes with right hand.
- With palm on underside of toes, pull up on toes to stretch the toe flexors and fascia under foot
- Hold stretch for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Repeat for other side
An additional stretch that is often helpful in cases of heel pain is that of stretching the calf muscles. This is because the achilles tendon-the tendon of the calf muscles- attaches to the heel and affects the mechanics of the heel. See here for instructions on calf muscle stretching.
Massage and Myofascial release for heel pain.
The following exercise is good to do prior to or instead of the plantar fascia and toe flexor stretch.
Sit in a chair. Place your bare foot on a tennis ball and roll the ball from the heel to the toes and back again to the heel. Repeat for two to three minutes. Cover the entire sole of the foot by moving the ball a little to the side with each pass. Roll the ball slowly with firm but comfortable pressure. It can be a little tender but don’t cause intense pain, as this may be counterproductive.
To release myofascial trigger points, you can linger on the tender spots to wait for a release or softening of the tender points. Stop on a tender point and breathe slow and deep while applying constant pressure. If the discomfort subsides you can press a little more, then wait for another release. It may take up to 90 seconds or more for a softening or decrease in tenderness to occur. Move on to the next most tender point. Release as many points as you wish in the same manner.
Be patient. Work on this daily for a few minutes. Start with mild to moderate pressure. In time you will tolerate firmer pressure. You may progress to using firmer and or smaller balls to achieve deeper or more concentrated releases.