A new stretch is proving quite effective to help treat and potentially cure plantar fasciitis, a condition that affects nearly 2.5 million Americans each year. In a study recently published in Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, researchers found that patients suffering from the painful heel spur syndrome had a 75 percent chance of having no pain and returning to full activity within three to six months of performing the stretch. In addition, patients have about a 75 percent chance of needing no further treatment.
The study is a two-year follow-up on 82 patients with plantar fasciitis, all of whom were part of an original clinical trial of 101 patients in 2003. The patients were taught a new stretch, specifically targeting the plantar fascia, that was developed by Benedict DiGiovanni, M.D., associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Rochester and author of the study, and Deborah Nawoczenski, P.T., Ph.D., professor of physical therapy at Ithaca College.
Plantar fasciitis is a painful inflammatory condition caused by excessive wear to the plantar fascia of the foot. The pain usually is felt on the underside of the heel, and is often most intense with the first steps of the day. It is commonly associated with long periods of weight bearing. Obesity, weight gain, jobs that require a lot of walking on hard surfaces, shoes with little or no arch support, and inactivity are also associated with the condition. This condition often results in a heel spur on the calcaneus, in which case it is the underlying condition, and not the spur itself, which produces the pain.
The stretch requires patients to 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 exercise must be repeated 10 times, and performed at least three times a day, including before taking the first step in the morning and before standing after a prolonged period of sitting. More than 90 percent of the patients were totally satisfied or satisfied.