How Yoga Can Help Relieve Pain From Chronic Plantar Fasciitis
Doing yoga regularly has been proven to provide many health benefits. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, a regular yoga practice has been shown to improve chronic pain; increase strength, balance, and flexibility; and reduce stress levels and inflammation that could drive chronic illness. Yoga has also proven to increase good quality sleep, improve your mood, and promote healthier habits in general.
With all the amazing health benefits of yoga, it’s not surprising that people with different health conditions or disorders are opting to hit the mat to help them cope with their symptoms. But when it comes to specific conditions such as plantar fasciitis, yoga can be both helpful and harmful. So what is plantar fasciitis, exactly, and how can doing yoga help ease the symptoms that go along with it? Read on to discover how yoga can help relieve pain from chronic plantar fasciitis (if done correctly!).
What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common orthopedic complaints. It is characterized by pain in the bottom of the heel – specifically, in the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a thick, weblike ligament that connects the front of the foot to the heel. Its main role is to absorb shock and support the arch of the foot. It is one of the most important parts of the foot when it comes to the ability to walk.
Although the cause of plantar fasciitis isn’t well known, some studies have found that it could be caused by degeneration of the ligament. Others have also suggested that inflammation to the ligament is what drives the pain. The main symptom of the condition is pain in the heel and middle of the bottom of the foot. The pain can be either sharp or dull, and tends to develop gradually. In some cases, it can even feel like a burning sensation. When people with plantar fasciitis use their feet a lot, the pain tends to flare up and get worse when they are finished with the activity.
People who are most susceptible to developing plantar fasciitis are those who are overweight or obese, or those who are highly active.
What exercises can I do with chronic plantar fasciitis?
Since physical activity can worsen the symptoms of plantar fasciitis, many people with the condition may be wary of what type of exercises they can do, if any at all. The good news is that you don’t have to give up exercising altogether if you have chronic plantar fasciitis. In fact, you shouldn’t – especially considering how beneficial exercise is to your overall health. You just have to do the right types of exercises.
One exercise that can be beneficial is a heel raise. These begin with you standing on the balls of your feet at the edge of the bottom step on a flight of stairs. As you hang your heels off the edge, slowly lower them just below the edge, then slowly rise to the balls of your feet. You can repeat this 10 times and do two sets for maximum effect. While that exercise may not seem as if it’s going to help your overall health, it may ease the discomfort you feel in your heel and foot.
Other exercises that you can do that won’t disturb your condition but will allow you to stay physically fit include:
- Stationary cycling
- Hand cycling
- Strength exercises that don’t involve too much pressure on the foot, such as leg extensions, bench presses, or push-ups
- Floor Pilates
If you know how to do the poses correctly (and avoid those that may exacerbate the condition), yoga is another great exercise for plantar fasciitis.
Can yoga help with plantar fasciitis?
Yoga can potentially either help or hurt plantar fasciitis, depending on the poses that you do and your alignment. Going out of alignment can lead to having too much pressure on one foot and increase the chances of worsening the pain.
According to experts at the Cleveland Clinic, some of the best yoga poses to help relieve plantar fasciitis pain include:
- Seated straight leg, foot and ankle warm-up: Start in a seated position on a chair and extend your legs out in front of you with your heels on the floor. Then, flex and extend your feet together by pointing your toes toward and away from yourself. You can also draw circles with your feet, switching directions every three to five breaths.
- Seated straight leg hamstring stretch: In the same position as the above pose, point your toes to the ceiling. Then, lengthen your back and fold your body forward until you feel a stretch in the back of your legs. Hold the stretch for three to five breaths.
- Prancing feet: Start in a standing position. Lift one heel up off the ground, rolling onto your toes, and then place it back down on the ground. Alternate between both feet.
- Calf and Achilles stretch: Stand with your feet parallel and hip width apart. Extend one leg behind you with your feet still parallel. Gently bend the opposite leg while the extended leg is kept straight until your heel is flat on the floor. With the front knee bent and the back leg extended with the foot flat on the floor, hold the pose for a few breaths. Repeat on the other side to even out the stretch.
These poses are designed to help increase flexibility and strength in the legs, which will help with plantar fasciitis pain. While doing them, be sure that you feel no pain. If you do, you may have to limit the stretch to a more manageable one for the meantime.
Yoga poses to avoid with plantar fasciitis
To ensure that your yoga practice doesn’t make your plantar fasciitis worse, you will want to avoid poses that put strain on the foot, such as jump backs. Warrior poses and pyramid pose should also be avoided, as they can put unneeded pressure on the foot and cause pain. In some cases, these poses can be done using props or modifications, but you should only attempt this with the guidance of a professional yoga instructor.
Plantar fasciitis can be difficult to cope with, but doing some yoga poses can relieve pain (and stress!) and help you manage your condition.