Each of your feet has 33 joints, 26 bones, and more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. That’s a lot of moving parts, so it’s not surprising that there are also countless problems that can plague your feet.
Two of the most common foot and ankle issues in active adults are plantar fasciitis, which causes pain in the heel and bottom of the foot, and Achilles tendinopathy, which causes pain and stiffness in the tendon that attaches the bone in your heel to your calf muscles. These conditions are closely related, and often come as concurrent diagnoses.
But there are some misconceptions about how to treat these foot woes, says Murphy Halasz, DPT, a physical therapist at Champion Performance Physical Therapy in Austin. Mainly, the cause of plantar fasciitis is often believed to be inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs across the foot’s arch to join the heel bone to the toes. (Don’t worry, feet swelling is usually nothing serious; here are 5 common reasons your feet are swollen.) The real problem, Halasz says, is that “the tendon is broken and there is not enough inflammation for it to heal.” True inflammation should only last 72 hours. “So, if it hurts more than three days, it’s no longer inflamed,” he says. “Plantar fasciitis is a chronic condition in most people.”
Below, Halasz walks you through some effective ways to treat achy feet. Try doing each of these exercises daily to ease your chronic foot pain.
A common prescription for plantar fasciitis is rolling your foot over a frozen water bottle. Because inflammation isn’t the true problem, you don’t need the ice, but rolling the plantar fascia is effective, says Halasz. Rather than use a water bottle, which can crumple under pressure, use a foot roller that can withstand bodyweight and cradle the foot to massage both sides of the arch (I used this Foot & Hand Massage Roller, $33, amazon.com).
How to do it: Place the foot roller underneath the heel of one foot. Roll to the ball of the foot, then back to the heel. Repeat this 10 times, then switch to the other foot. This can be performed while standing or sitting. Repeat multiple times per day.
Think of the heel as one unit with the Achilles tendon at the top and the plantar fascia at the bottom. If the Achilles pulls up, the plantar fascia shifts, too. “That is why stretching the calf is another way to treat plantar fasciitis,” Halasz explains. “It allows you to reorient the heel.” (If heel pain is keeping you from exercising, follow these expert tips to ease your discomfort.)
How to do it: Prop the ball of one foot against a wall with your heel grounded. Gently lean in toward the wall, and hold for 15 seconds. Switch to the other foot. Repeat multiple times per day.
Time to address Achilles tendinopathy, which is what you’re experiencing when you feel pain and stiffness behind your heel and up into your calf muscle. For chronic conditions, Halasz prescribes low levels of stress and “eccentric load,” which basically means you spend more time lengthening the muscle than you do shortening it. “Walking backwards and slow calf raises are the best for that,” he advises.
How to do it: Stand in front of a wall with your feet a few inches apart, gently resting your hands on the wall for balance. Lift your heels as high as you can and hold at the top for a brief second. Slowly, taking three times as long as you took to lift, lower your heels back down to the floor. Perform 15 repetitions. Repeat multiple times per day.
Source: Prevention.com | Not affiliated with Aetrex Worldwide