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New Stretching Therapy For Plantar Fasciitis

September 25, 2006 10:47 AM

By Jim Brown, Ph.D., Author, Tennis: Steps to Success; Executive Editor, Sports Performance Journal

Sooner or later, a significant number of tennis players have to deal with plantar fasciitis. It is a condition in which the band of tissue that supports the arch and runs along the bottom of the foot becomes chronically irritated and inflamed. In the past, treatment has often included weight-bearing stretches for the Achilles tendon.

Now, a simple stretching routine that targets the fascia tissue (instead of the Achilles tendon) has resulted in significant improvement in patients, according to a study conducted at the University of Rochester and published in the August 2006 issue of Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. The study involved 82 patients, all of whom were part of an original trial in 2003. They were taught a stretch that requires the person to sit with one leg crossed over the other. They stretched the arch by taking one hand and pulling the toes back toward the shin for a count of 10. The exercises had to be repeated 10 times, three times a day, including before taking a first step in the morning and before standing after a long period of sitting. More than 90 percent of the patients were totally satisfied or satisfied with minor reservations. Seventy-seven percent reported no limitation in recreational activities, and 94 percent reported a decrease in pain.

Plantar fasciitis can take up to 10 months to heal, which is too long for tennis players and others who want to return to normal activity, training, or competition. When surgery is required, the recovery period is extended and the success rate is only about 50 percent. The Rochester study found that the new protocol resulted in a 75 percent chance of having no pain and returning to full activity within three to six months. In addition, those who completed the stretching program had a 75 percent chance that they would not need further treatment.

Benedict DiGiovanni, MD, author of the study, says that walking without stretching the plantar fascia tissue causes further injury to the area. He also concluded that the stretching exercises provide an effective non-surgical option that was not previously available.

 

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