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As we get older, our muscles, tendons and ligaments have a natural tendency to tighten. Exercise also causes the muscles to tighten. Many who complain of foot pain have associated tightness of the calf muscles (the gastrocnemius and soleus muscle complex) and Achilles tendon, which attaches the calf muscle to the back of the heel. The result of tight calf muscles is limitation in the movement of the ankle joint. When there is not adequate range of motion at the ankle joint during walking or exercising, the small joints in the foot are forced to compensate. This causes the foot to flatten leading to excessive strain on the plantar fascia which is attached to the bottom of the heel and increased pressures on the front, or ball, of the foot. Over time, this repeated strain may result in a variety of foot problems, including heel pain and inflammation of the small small joints in the ball of the foot. Stretching of the calf muscles can, over time, be very useful in the treatment of many foot disorders, as well as for prevention of many foot problems.
The modified runners stretch is helpful to reduce the contracture of the calf muscles and the hamstrings in the back of the thigh. This is accomplished by sitting with legs extended. Take a towel or a belt and wrap around one foot, just beneath the toes. Pull the towel or belt towards you until you feel the stretch. Then, with your back straight , lean into the stretch. You should feel the stretch in your hamstrings and up to your low back. Hold this for 10 seconds and repeat for 10 repetitions on each side. This stretch should be perormed three times each day.
An alternative method of stretching is to stand facing a wall, approximately two feet away, turn your feet inward so you are pigeon toed. Lean forward, into the wall, keeping your heels on the floor and the knees extended. Keep your back straight and do not bend at the hips. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds and repeat for 10 repetitions on each side. For the best long-term results, this stretch should be performed three times each day.
Always stretch the muscles following any form of exercise. After exercise, the muscle is 'warmed-up' meaning it has adequate blood flow to it. This enables a deeper stretch to be achieved. Stretching should not cause pain. If it does, it is not being performed properly. The stretch should always be felt in the body of the muscle not in the Achilles tendon or the back of the knee. If you are unable to perform the stretch properly, consult with Dr Talarico.
For additional stretches, read Reduce Pressure to your Feet with Stretching Exercises
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