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Heel Pain and Importance of Stretching

Heel pain may not be dangerous, but it can be quite disruptive to your daily life. If your heel pain is not the result of acute trauma, such as stepping on a stone, then it is most likely caused by problems with the tendons in your feet. In this blog, we’ll look at the two main causes of such pain, and how you can reduce or prevent it from occurring.

Achilles Tendonitis

The Achilles Tendon is the tendon that runs at the back of the heel, connecting to your calf. As such, it is one of the most frequently used tendons in the body, helping us to walk, run, and jump. It is also the largest tendon in the whole body, and while all of this may suggest that it is quite susceptible to injury, that is not necessarily the case. Because the Achilles Tendon is so crucial to us, it has evolved to be extremely resilient over time. So while you might expect this to be the main offender when it comes to heel pain, it is actually relatively unusual. The main symptom that suggests your heel pain is rooted in the Achilles Tendon is pain that runs up the back of your leg, particularly in the morning or after exercise.

Like the majority of medical conditions that end in -itis, Achilles Tendonitis is when the Achilles Tendon swells. This happens as a result of overuse, which tears the tiny fibres that run through all tendons. Excessive sport or exercise is the primary cause of such swelling.

Plantar Fasciitis

The other option that could be behind your heel pain is Plantar Fasciitis. This is essentially identical to Achilles Tendonitis, but in the Plantar Fascia, which is the tendon that runs along the bottom of your foot, connecting your heel to your toes. Also used in running, walking, and jumping, the Plantar Fascia is one of the most commonly used tendons in the human body, but is far more susceptible to such swelling than the Achilles Tendon. More often than not, this will be the cause of heel pain.

Plantar Fasciitis can mainly be felt in the morning, in particular immediately after you get up. The pain may subside quite quickly as a result of your feet warming up as you move around. The pain may then gradually return throughout the day if you are active, and should generally subside soon after you start resting.

Stretches

Although making sure to take it easy on the exercise, get some rest, and take small breaks throughout the day will all help address both of these issues, stretches are necessary for a full and speedy recovery. Fortunately, there are several very easy stretches you can do anywhere that can help address either one of these issues.

One way is to sit on a chair, and stretch your leg out diagonally. You may already feel your calf begin to stretch, which will help your Achilles Tendon. Touching your toes and pulling them towards you will reinforce this, as well as stretch the Plantar Fascia.

Another option is to sit on the floor with your legs extended. Take a towel and roll it up, holding each end in one hand. Place the middle of the towel ‘tube’ on the arch of your foot, and then push out with your foot while pulling the towel towards you.

A third stretch you can do is a wall stretch. For this, you should stand at arms-length from the wall, with one leg bent at the knee in front and your foot planted firmly on the ground, and the other bent behind you, with only your toes on the ground. Act as though you are trying to push the wall, and you should feel both your calf and your Plantar Fascia stretch.

Hold these for about 15 seconds, doing it 2 to 4 times per leg, roughly five times a day. Combine these with periodic breaks, and you’ll soon begin to feel the difference.