June 15, 2019

Healing Your Feet, and Finding a Balance in Following Doctor’s Orders

Healing Your Feet, and Finding a Balance in Following Doctor’s Orders


Night splints also work. Combining them with orthotics can accelerate healing. They can be difficult to sleep with, however. There are lots of types, but for each one there at least some patients who say they disrupt rest. I used them as much as I could (about three hours per night) and abandoned them as I felt better so that I could more easily sleep. To a large extent, lifestyle considerations (adequate sleep) triumphed over this therapeutic approach.

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Standing on a wedge to help with foot stretching.CreditJim Wilson/The New York Times

The evidence on the effectiveness of stretching for plantar fasciitis is not strong. Nevertheless, it is frequently recommended, and I did find that it helped relieve discomfort in the short term. There are dozens of stretches. A study that compared two popular ones — a standing calf stretch and a seated foot stretch — found the foot stretch to be superior. Whatever stretching I did, I made sure to include that one.

At three times per day for about 10 minutes, a full stretching regimen takes considerable time. To fit it in without much disruption, I often did the foot stretching under the table during meetings and on conference calls. As for the calf stretch, I could do some of it while brushing my teeth or waiting for the train during my commute.

Trigger point therapy — massage, basically — can also help. If nothing else, it feels good. I threw that into my therapeutic mix, too, working my feet with massage balls as I typed and my calves with my hands as I read.

Finally, there’s strengthening. Here, there is good evidence that some approaches are very helpful, including a heel-raising variant previously described by The Times. It’s very tiring and time consuming, particularly if done according to the clinical trial (three or more sets per session), and requires a step off which to hang one’s heel.

The “short foot” exercise — pulling your toes toward your heels and arching the foot upward — may also be helpful. It requires no equipment and can be done surreptitiously anywhere. Now pain free, I’m doing both. I brought a yoga block to work so I could do heel raises during calls.

There is a lot of gray area in medicine. This mix of approaches worked for me, in large part because I found a way to fit its elements into my day, abandoning those I could not. Your approach — for this or any condition — may be different from mine. But one similarity may be that it is shaped not just by medical science, but also by the realities of life.



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