Plantar fascia pain (PFP), sometimes known as plantarfasciitis or plantarfasciopathy, can be a runner’s (or non-runner’s) worst nightmare. Unless managed well, it can be quite painful and can impact your training program quite significantly. A recent study published showed the benefit of some alternative treatments to help PFP. In this blog I will give you a quick overview of the study and how it might help you … hit the ground running again!
Before we delve into the research a quick recap on what is PFP. Typically, it is an overuse injury, meaning the tissue has been pushed beyond it’s capacity repeatedly, over a long period of time. The plantar fascia sits on the underside of your foot and reaches from the heel to all 5 toes. It is often characterised by pain with the first steps in the morning and tenderness over your heel. If you would like to read more about the causes and treatments for PFP you can read it here in our blog Plantar Fasciitis?? Just What Exactly Is It?.
As reduced ankle flexibility can be a pre-determining factor in PFP, this study looked to try improve flexibility in the lower leg to help improve people’s pain. This small study conducted in 2020 selected a small group of people with PFP to comply with the following treatment methods:
- A slow resisted exercise program focused on their gastrocnemius (A large muscle in your lower leg)
- A gel insole placed under the heel in the participant’s running shoes.
- A foot splint to be worn at night which holds their foot in a neutral position, know as a Strasburg sock.
Participants’ pain and lower leg flexibility was measured at different intervals up to 9 months after the start of the study.
Over time all the reported pain outcomes improved. There was also a strong connection between lower leg flexibility and an improvement in the participant’s heel pain. So, this tells us that there is some relationship between lengthening activities of the calf and improvements in pain levels / flexibility. However, this study did have a significant amount of resistance training built in, which we know is helpful for the resolution of heel pain.
What does it all mean?
This study shows us that of stretching activities may be beneficial in helping reduce plantar fascia pain, however, must not be completed in isolation. When recovering from plantar heel pain there must be a combination of strength and stretching to achieve the best outcomes. Furthermore, it is essential that your rehabilitation is tailored specifically to you and an effective return to running program be put in place. If you would like to know more about this study, or PFP in general please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Physio’s here in Sydney’s CBD!