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Yoga & Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes for heel pain and is found often in runners and people who spend a lot of time on their feet. The plantar fascia is a thick ligament that runs across the bottom of the foot connecting the toes to the heel. If it becomes inflamed, extremely tight or tears slightly, it can cause slight to debilitating pain called plantar fasciitis. Yoga can help ease the condition, depending on the cause and severity.
The plantar fascia is a thick ligament on the bottom of the foot that connects the heel to the toes. It can easily become tight, swollen or tear with overuse, especially if you are overweight. However, stress fractures, heel spurs or a pinched nerve can cause similar symptoms. To properly diagnose plantar fasciitis, you need to rule out other causes with X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging.
Plantar fasciitis can be caused by a tear, swelling or extreme tightness in the fascia. A variety of treatments are recommended and usually include some combination of rest and gently stretching to strengthen and increase flexibility in the fascia. Yoga, or any type of weight-bearing exercise, can cause added problems if the injury is severe. However, with milder symptoms or just a tight fascia, yoga can be part of a treatment plan and help prevent reoccurring bouts.
Many yoga poses stretch the fascia and surrounding foot and leg muscles. Downward facing dog (placing the body in an upside down V with the hands and feet about a yard apart and the sit-bones high in the air) stretches the entire fascia and calf muscles. It is important to keep pressing the heels into the ground, or you can end up tightening the ligament even more. Peddling out the feet, pushing back on one heel and then the other in this pose can also be helpful. Other good poses to try include inside side stretch pose, parsvottanasana or staff pose and dandasana. In staff pose, your toes need to be flexed back the entire time. Most yoga classes will cover a variety of poses, all of which help stretch and strengthen multiple parts of the body. Many will help the fascia when the feet are kept in the proper position.
Yoga is a proven way to keep the entire body limber, including the plantar fascia. The stretching it provides is solid preventative medicine to help keep plantar fasciitis at bay.
As with any medical condition, start with a proper diagnosis. Check with your doctor about the possibility of stretching, yoga or physical therapy as part of treatment and recovery. If yoga is recommended, inform your yoga instructor of your condition. A knowledgeable teacher will have many poses to recommend and will watch your feet positioning to make sure you are lengthening the fascia in each one.
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