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Health & Families

A good stretch for foot pain

Millions of people suffer from a painful, imflammatory condition known as plantar faciitis, which results in pain on the bottom of the heel. But a new study reveals simple stretching exercises seem to do the trick.

A news release on November 4 announced a study that compared shockwave therapy, a common type of therapy used to treat plantar fasciitis, versus basic stretching in 102 patients. Those patients who stretched yielded better results. The study is published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.

For eight weeks, patients in the stretching group performed stretching exercises three times a day, while patients in the shockwave therapy group received three treatment sessions three times a week. After two and four months, both groups were evaluated, and 65 percent of the stretchers reported good improvement, while only 29 percent of the shockwave therapy group reported feeling better.

To do the stretch, take a seated position and cross the hurt foot over the knee of your other leg. Grasp the toes of your painful foot and bring your ankle up and your toes up. Place your thumb along the plantar fascia and rub it to stretch it. The fascia should feel like a tight band along the bottom of your foot when stretched. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds. Repeat 10-20 times for each foot.

Dr. Judy Baumhauer, president-elect of the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society and who was not involved in the study, recommends that this exercise be performed initially in the morning before getting out of bed and after any long periods of sitting. "I am a firm believer in this type of stretch and nearly 80 percent of my patients have shown improvement in just eight weeks of stretching therapy," she stated in the release.

Other treatment options not evaluated in the study include orthotics, with studies showing patients with mild conditions improving by wearing either over-the-counter brands or customized versions. Anti-inflammatory drugs and well as local injections of coricosteroids are also commonly used.

To read the full study:

To watch a video demonstration featuring Dr. Baumhauer: http://www.webmd.com/video/healing-the-heel