The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Treat & Prevent Foot Pain: NYC Podiatrists Discuss the Importance of Stretching

Posted by on Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

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More than half of Americans have to limit their daily activities due to persistent foot pain. While this has kept many a podiatrist busy, it’s not something we like to see. So the big question remains: what is just about everyone doing wrong? We find it’s not so much what they are doing — the heel and flip-flop wearing or the strenuous running regimen, for instance — but, moreover, it’s what they’re not doing.

“What patient advice do we find ourselves giving out until we’re blue in the face? STRETCH!” says Dr. Nadia Levy, a NY podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. “Even after the pain goes away, stretch! Do not ignore an acute problem and let it become chronic.” Many of the common ailments we treat in our Manhattan and Westchester offices, from plantar fasciitis to Achilles tendinosis, could be prevented or alleviated with an appropriate stretching and strengthening routine.

foot stretches
Are you stretching those feet? Podiatrists say you should be!
Image Source: Reginaldo82 via Wikimedia.org

Stretching & Plantar Fasciitis Foot Pain

We always tell patients that flexible joints and warmed up muscles prevent injury. More often than not, injuries tend to cascade. First it’s heel pain and before you know it, the pain has spread to the knee, hip, and back. Many people are surprised to learn that much of their heel pain can be alleviated through strengthening the calf muscles to take some of the tension away from the tendons leading down to the heel and arch.

“One thing I always tell my patients is to do the calf and foot stretching and strengthening exercises regularly,” says Dr. Katherine Lai. Sometimes we have to go in surgically and snip part of the plantar fascia ligament to release tension and relieve inflammation. However, “A so-called ‘quick fix’ is not always the best fix,” Dr. Lai adds. Even the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says that “Stretching your calves and plantar fascia is the most effective way to relieve the pain that comes with this condition.”

Scientific research on the significance of stretching has been a mixed bag, but at least one study shows “a statistically significant reduction” in acute pain for plantar fasciitis.

10 Good Reasons to Stretch Every Day

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) offers these 10 reasons to stretch daily:

  1. To decrease muscle stiffness, increase range of motion, and slow joint degeneration.
  2. To reduce risk of injury through improved flexibility and reduced resistance from muscles.
  3. To relieve post-exercise aches and pains.
  4. To improve posture by maintaining flexible muscles that are in better alignment.
  5. To reduce or manage stress by decreasing the amount of tension the muscles hold.
  6. To enhance muscle relaxation, improve circulation, and the movement of feel-good hormones.
  7. To improve mechanical efficiency and performance by lowering the amount of energy needed to move.
  8. To prepare the body for the stress and added impact of exercise.
  9. To increase blood supply and nutrient transportation throughout the entire body.
  10. To relieve stress placed on the lower lumbar and decrease the risk of low-back pain.

Learning How to Stretch

“I feel that many common conditions we see respond very well to stretching exercises,” explains Dr. Ryan Minara, one of our best podiatrists in New York City. “I typically spend a lot of time reviewing stretches with my patients, and even often give them printed material to reference.”

Despite the great successes we see with foot pain patients who make stretching as much a part of life as brushing their teeth, there is still a lot of resistance to limbering up. Many patients still view stretching as a “waste of time.” Dr. Minara comments, “It often seems their desire to get better is outweighed by their desire NOT to stretch!”

Part of the problem is that many people have an outdated perception of what it means to stretch. Over the years, the trend has moved away from static stretching before workouts to dynamic full-body stretching before a workout and more fine-tuned stretching after workouts. Yoga classes are exploding in popularity. People are using tools like foam rollers and resistance bands to make stretching more fun. If books, DVDs, and group classes aren’t really your thing, you can come to one of our centers in Manhattan or Westchester to work one-on-one with a biomechanical specialist.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.