Heel pain affects many thousands of people across the country every year. It makes standing or walking for work more challenging, takes the fun out of athletic activities, and generally decreases your mobility. It can be a stubborn problem, too, especially depending on the cause. Eliminating it takes invested, consistent care. One of the potential treatments that can be very helpful is actually physical therapy.
Goals of Physical Therapy
Physical therapy is a type of treatment that uses stretches, exercises, and sometimes other modalities to improve your limb function. It takes into account how movement in one part affects your limb and body function and can actually be used to treat a wide variety of physical health issues. Therapy for heel pain targets the lower limbs with the goal of alleviating pain and improving your overall foot function.
Now, there are many different types and causes for heel pain. Issues with arthritis, Achilles tendon problems, and bumps from Haglund’s deformity are just a few of the potential culprits. The most common cause of painful heels in adults, however, is plantar fasciitis, which causes swelling and tightening of the plantar fascia band in the sole of your foot. This swelling and tightening pulls on the heel bone, creating the pain you feel. Physical therapy benefits this particular heel pain source by loosening the tightness in the plantar fascia band, addressing inflammation, and strengthening the supporting structures of your feet. This reduces the pressure on your heels, improving your pain.
Exercises for Your Heel Pain
The specific treatments for your heel pain will depend on your unique needs and the cause of your discomfort. Our team at Martin Foot and Ankle will evaluate your lower limbs and determine what would best benefit you. From there we can work with you to establish a plan and schedule for physical therapy. Here are a few common exercises for heel pain caused by plantar fasciitis:
- Ice Massage – Take a frozen water bottle or tennis ball and put it under your sole. Press against it and gently role it back and forth, massaging the bottom of your foot.
- Calf Stretches – Put your hands flat against a wall and set one foot backward between 6-12 inches. Keep that knee straight and your heel planted on the ground. Lunge toward the wall on your front knee until you feel a stretch in you calf. Hold for a few seconds, then relax and repeat with both knees bent.
- Plantar Stretch – Sit in a chair with one foot propped up on your knee. Flex that foot and gently pull your toes back toward your shin.
- Towel Scrunches – Put a towel on the ground in front of a chair. Sit down and put your bare feet on the towel. Anchoring the cloth with one foot, use just the toes on your other foot to grab and scrunch the towel closer.