Plantar fasciitis causes a great deal of heel pain and disability among athletes. As a sports medicine doctor, I have seen thousands of athletes sidelined by plantar fasciitis. Most patients will respond to standard treatments for plantar fasciitis, which include:
- Astym treatment
- Autologous Blood Injections/Platelet Rich Plasma Injections (controversial)
- Corticosteroid Injection (controversial due to potential side effects)
- Electrical Stimulation and Iontophoresis
- Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy – ESWT (controversial)
- Laser/Light Therapy
- Needle/Percutaneous Fasciotomy
- Night Splints
- NSAIDs/Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Prolotherapy (controversial)
- Surgery (usually only done as a last resort)
- Ultrasound and Phonophoresis
However, a notable percentage of athletes fail to respond to the usual treatment course, and their condition becomes chronic, or long term. Some sports physicians and medical researchers suspect that a portion of these recalcitrant patients are not stretching properly, and that may be a factor in their failure to recover from plantar fasciitis.
If you have the physical abilities and health anywhere from an amateur to professional athlete, here are some stretches that may help you recover from plantar fasciitis:
Stretch #1: Gastroc Stretch: foot flat on the floor, knee straight, lean forward with your other foot extended in front of you, but keep most of your weight on your back foot until you comfortably feel the stretch in the back of your calf (gastroc muscle and Achilles tendon).
Stretch #2: Soleus Stretch: foot flat on the floor, KNEE BENT, lean forward on the other foot that is extended in front of you, but keep most of your weight on your back foot until you comfortably feel the stretch in the back of your calf (by bending your knee, you relax the gastroc muscle, which allows you to focus the stretch on the soleus muscle and the Achilles tendon).
Stretch #3: Flexor Hallicus Longus (FHL) Stretch: Often, plantar fasciitis sufferers will do some version of stretches #1 and #2 above, but fail to do this last stretch. This stretch can often be the key in helping patients recover from plantar fasciitis. Use a stair step or a wall to aid you in this stretch. Stretch your toes up vertically using the wall or stair step and, keeping your heel on the floor, bend you knee slightly and push foward gently, until you comfortably feel the stretch in the bottom of your foot, the inside part of your ankle, and up the back of your calf.
As with any rehabilitation method, you should talk with your doctor prior to doing any stretching activity or other type of treatment. In the cases of chronic plantar fasciitis, experienced sports doctors often recommend that these stretches be done 2 times a day, with each stretch performed 3 times per session, and held for 40-60 seconds if a patient’s condition comfortably allows for this.