Stretch Away the Pain of Plantar Fasciitis

New exercise eases heel trouble in three-quarters of cases, developer says

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SATURDAY, Nov. 25, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Something as simple as a stretch could ease the pain of plantar fasciitis, a condition that causes heel pain and difficulty walking.

The newly developed stretch targets the plantar fascia, the flat band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes. Plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia is strained, resulting in weakness, inflammation and irritation.

A study published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery found that the stretch was 75 percent successful in relieving pain and enabling patients to return to full activity within three to six months. After doing the exercise, about 75 percent of patients needed no further treatment, the study said.

The stretch was developed by Dr. Benedict DiGiovanni, associate professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Rochester, and Deborah Nawoczenski, professor of physical therapy at Ithaca College.

Here's how it works: Patients sit with one leg crossed over the other and stretch the arch of the foot by taking one hand and pulling the toes back toward the shin for a count of 10. The stretch needs to be repeated 10 times, and patients need to do at least three stretching sessions a day.

"Plantar fasciitis is everywhere, but we really haven't had a good handle on it. The condition often causes chronic symptoms and typically takes about nine to 10 months to burn itself out, and for people experiencing this pain, that's way too long to suffer through it," DiGiovanni said in a prepared statement.

The condition is common in middle-aged people and young people who spend a lot of time on their feet.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about plantar fasciitis.

SOURCE: University of Rochester Medical Center, news release, November 2006

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