Stretching Exercises for Plantar Fasciitis !
Virtually everyone who comes to my office for treatment for plantar fasciitis have tried stretching exercises for plantar fasciitis relief at one time or another. The frustrating thing for many of them however is that these stretching exercises for plantar fasciitis have either offered only partial, temporary or even non-existent levels of relief despite their hard work. Yet personally I have found that stretching exercises for plantar fasciitis do play an essential role in managing the condition.
The truth is that stretching exercises for plantar fasciitis are an essential part of the key to successful recovery but they are often not much immediate help for the pain itself.
So what I am saying here is that stretching exercises for plantar fasciitis are an essential part of the foot pain puzzle but that they are not great for achieving pain relief. The reason for this is that plantar fasciitis is a complex issue and like many such complaints there are layers of dysfunction that must be dealt to using various approaches in the correct sequence.
Stretching exercises for plantar fasciitis in most cases work best for managing the condition when they are prescribed in the rehab/prevention phase of care, as opposed to the initial pain relief phase. In other words the best stretching exercises for plantar fasciitis are good at stopping the pain from coming back.
Imagine for a moment that you had a need for emergency dental care due to a terrible toothache. You go to the dentist and having taken a closer look he explains that you have a massive root infection. When you ask him what you should do he shows you how to floss your teeth twice a day and then thanks you for your visit. What wrong with this picture?
We all know that flossing is an integral part of the long term management of a painful tooth, yet we also know that once we have tooth pain there is a more pressing issue required in the form of root canal work. The point here is that we can’t floss our way out of a root infection and we often can’t use stretching exercises for plantar fasciitis as a way out of a severely inflamed plantar fascia.
We all understand the wisdom in not prescribing rehab exercises at the side of the road to someone who has just been hit by a car !!! This is because while we hopefully know that rehabilitation is absolutely crucial when the body is damaged there is usually some ‘doctoring’ that needs to be done first so that the body can heal itself. Treatment first , exercises later. If you are suffering from plantar fasciitis and you are looking for pain relief this is the key concept to bear in mind when considering stretching exercises for plantar fasciitis.
When we have chronic pain in the sole of our heel and arch there is nearly always a build up of scar tissue and damage to collagen that must be resolved before we can rely on stretching exercises for plantar fasciitis to deal with the underlying tightness in our leg and foot.
Okay so we don’t use stretching exercises for ‘pain relief’ necessarily we use them for ‘rehabilitation’ but what kind of stretching exercises?
To answer this question effectively it’s best to first dig a bit deeper into what really causes plantar fasciitis and heel pain to happen in the first place.
Plantar fasciitis and heel pain in basic terms are essentially caused by millions of steps taken in a lifetime spent on hard unnatural surfaces like concrete, tarmac and paving. All this stomping around on hard ground causes repetitive strain and compression in the sole of the foot which leads to a painful build up of scar tissue and tissue damage.
While this connection between the strain of hard ground and scar tissue build up in the foot is an inescapable fact of life so is the fact that we don’t all get plantar fasciitis despite being exposed to the same environment and similar activity levels. And this is a key observation because the difference is plantar fasciitis and heel pain sufferers have significant weaknesses in their legs and feet.
The most common difference I see between plantar fasciitis and heel pain sufferers and non-sufferers is a strength difference rather than a flexibility difference, this should give you a clue as to what kind of exercises are involved.
The best exercises for plantar fasciitis are not stretching exercises – they are STRENGTHENING exercises.
Setting stretching exercises for plantar fasciitis aside for a moment. If you have strength from your hip and glutes through to your foot your arches won’t drop unnaturally when we walk and we don’t get strain in our plantar fascia. If on the other hand you have muscle wasting in your hips and knees your arches drop when you walk ( even high arches ) and you will tend to get scar tissue build up in the sole of the foot.
Effective activation of the glutes etc. during ‘functional’ weight bearing movements is they key to exercising for plantar fasciitis and heel pain!! Picture simple balance board type exercises executed correctly and simple squatting and lunging movements. These kind of exercises stabilise the entire leg and reduce strain in the sole of the foot. Most people find that this does so much more for them than stretching exercises for plantar fasciitis.
When I take this long term ‘stabilisation’ approach with people I find that they stay pain free much more reliably and consistently then when they focus solely on stretching exercises for plantar fasciitis. Interestingly it is also quite normal for people that as they get stronger any stubborn knee, hip and back pain they might have had also reduces. These effects would be considered quite normal effects of ‘stability exercises’ in today’s world.
If you are exploring pain relief options I would definitely encourage you to try out stretching exercises for plantar fasciitis to help manage your pain because they can definitely help. There are downloadable PDF’s here.
I believe that anything that is safe and that works for you in a lasting way is valid, if you drink frogs milk for breakfast and it improves your ability to exercise without pain keep drinking it. If you are using something that isn’t working for you throw it out. I met a lady recently who has been working dilligently on stretching exercises for plantar fasciitis for over a year without seeing any results whatsoever, I admired her persistence.
If you are on a mission to resolve your plantar fasciitis I advise you to be persistent, but if you are and you still don’t at least see slow but definite results try something else. This is probably the best principle we can apply to all treatments and exercises for plantar fasciitis and heel pain.