Plantar Fasciitis: Tips & Exercises to Relieve the Pain

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I recently researched and wrote an article all about the best footwear for nurses with Plantar Fasciitis. A subject close to my heart as I suffered greatly from it a few years ago.

Anyway, the issue got me thinking about some of the exercises I used to do to alleviate some of the pain.

While it veers a little from the content I generally like to create for Nurse Focus (this year, mainly Covid news interspersed with a few reviews), it seems to me, the following might be helpful for any of you all that might be struggling with Plantar Fasciitis right now.

So without further ado, let’s gently step to it.

Introduction

The heel pain you are currently suffering is being caused by stress placed on the plantar fascia ligament.

It is likely that small tears and inflammation have occurred in the ligament. When you are at rest, this stiffens making subsequent walking painful, (especially in the mornings or after taking a break at work).

Good news is, gentle stretching and strengthening exercises can help the plantar fascia become more flexible.

Strengthening muscles to support the arch also help, as less stress is directed at the ligament.

This is why relevant exercises and good supporting footwear are the best way to tackle Plantar Fasciitis.

What follows are a list of the most effective exercises you can do to alleviate the pain of Plantar Fasciitis. However, these do not substitute talking to your doctor if the problem persists.

Before you exercises for plantar fasciitis

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The aim doing these exercises is so that the plantar fascia more flexible. However, in some instances, the very act of exercising will cause some pain in the affected area.

To reduce pain and inflammation, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen or naproxe, could be taken 30 minutes before these exercises.

(As always, be safe with any medicines you take and be sure to read the label)

An ice pack on the heel after you exercise will also help reduce inflammation.

Stretching before getting out of bed

The mornings can be the worst for people with plantar fasciitis. After “seizing up” during the hours of rest, those first steps after getting out of bed can cause a huge amount of stress on the plantar fascia.

The best way around this is to stretch the ligament before standing up.

Foot stretching exercises

  • Stretch your foot by flexing it up and down 10 times before standing.
  • Do toe stretches to stretch the plantar fascia.
  • Use a towel to stretch the bottom of your foot (towel stretch).

Other steps to take

These following steps can also help with the morning pain.

  • Wear a night splint in bed to hold the ankle and foot in a stretched position.
  • Massage the bottom of your foot before getting out of bed.
  • Wear shoes with sufficient arch support as soon as you step out of bed.

If the above exercise causes undue pain, stop immedietely. It may be that you need a physical therapist to assist in the correct exercises for your condition.

Exercises throughout the day

Whenever you can do any stretching and strengthening exercises, you will help reduce pain in your foot.

If you can do some or all of the following exercises everyday, you will be on the right track.

Tennis Ball Roll

Take a seat, and using a tennis ball (or rolling pin), roll the ball backwards and forwards on the spot for 5 minutes, using the arch of your foot.

Toe stretch

With your shoes off, curl and uncurl your toes

Towel stretch

  • Sit with your legs extended and place a towel around the base of your foot, near the toes.
  • Hold the ends of the towel in each hand
  • Pull on the towel so that your foot stretches toward you.
  • Hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds
  • Repeat 5 times

Calf stretch

  • Stand facing a wall with your hands against the wall at eye level
  • The leg to be stretched should be placed behind you
  • With the back heel on the floor, bend your front knee so that your back leg feels the stretch
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds
  • Repeat 5 times

Towel curls for strengthening

Take a seat, place your foot on top of a towel and scrunch it towards you, using only your toes.
Once you can scrunch inwards no more, use your toes to push the towel away from you

Marble pickups for strengthening

This is a fun one if you happen to have some marbles laying around. Simply use your toes to pick up the marbles and place them in a cup.

Some other tips and precautions

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Don’t push it too hard

If you like to jog, you will need to give this a rest until the inflammation in your plantar fascia subsides.

Taking around two weeks off is recommended. Running too soon, will set the healing process back.

Start slowly

When you do go back to a normal exercise or work routine, take it slowly at first. Be wary of the fact you have recently damaged your plantar fascia, and that it will take time for it to regain its full strength.

Correct footwear

Don’t cut corners on the footwear. Invest in orthotics if need be. Certainly you should be wearing a pair of shoes that offer the right support for your condition. You can find out more on this here.

The RICE Method

The RICE method can be remembered with a handy acronym, and is best employed when heel pain first appears:

  • Rest the area of pain immedietely
  • Ice the area at 20 minute intervals to reduce inflammation
  • Compress the area with a soft wrap
  • Elevate the area by resting the foot on pillows

Hopefully, if you take all of the above measures, your plantar fasciitis will not be nearly as debilitating. Your pain and discomfort will be reduced, and you will be back on your feet with full health, in no time.

If you have any tips for coping with plantar fasciitis, I’d love to hear from you. Shoot me a message or leave a comment. Stay safe and well everyone!

About Hannah Drake

Hannah Drake, RN, CSP is a registered nurse and owner and founder of Nurse Focus. Her nursing career spans almost two decades, and in that time she has developed her skill base across a variety of settings, including med surg nursing, clinical informatics system administration and implementation, and healthcare community management. Contact Hannah.

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