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Morning Exercises for Heel Pain & Plantar Fasciitis

 

One tell-tale sign of plantar fasciitis is heel pain that gets worse after long periods of inactivity — especially after a long night’s sleep.

No matter how plush your carpet, those first few steps can feel like walking on broken glass.

Thankfully, there’s a few things you can do to make getting out of bed in the morning a more pleasant experience. Let’s talk about why heel pain first thing in the morning is so common, and a few plantar fasciitis exercises to do in bed!

What Causes Heel Pain First Thing in the Morning?

Have you ever felt the burn of tight muscles and ligaments after a difficult workout (maybe one where you hadn’t properly warned up or cooled down!)? A weak, deteriorating, or injured plantar fascia is no different — except unlike run-of-the-mill overworked muscles and ligaments, the fascia has been strained and overworked to the point of developing tiny tears and degeneration that make it far more difficult to “bounce back.”

Each night, during the long period of inactivity while you are asleep, the plantar fascia ligament and the supporting muscles and ligaments in your foot and legs tighten up and contract. The next morning, when you put pressure on the tight, damaged plantar fascia, the result is intense pain until the fascia lengthens and stretches.

Over time, this morning pain can be exacerbated by heel spurs, tiny sharp calcium deposits that can develop as the body attempts to prop up a damaged plantar fascia and thinning heel pad. In the morning, the tight plantar fascia’s first contact with these sharp heel spurs can be excruciating.

The Solution? Stretches You Can Do in Bed!

The answer to morning pain from plantar fasciitis revolves around strengthening and improving the flexibility of your plantar fascia and surrounding muscles. A strong, flexible plantar fascia resists both plantar fasciitis and morning pain! Plantar fasciitis exercises also have the added benefit of breaking up scar tissue and improving circulation and blood flow to the injured area, which can make a difference in how fast your fascia is able to repair itself (the plantar fascia is avascular, meaning that this area of the foot doesn’t get much blood flow, particularly as scar tissue develops over time.

These exercises can be done in bed, before you take your first step! But don’t let that be the only time you stretch your feet. Making these stretches a regular part of your routine (twice or three times a day), will help you heal more quickly.

Stretches for Morning Heel Pain

The following series of stretches and exercises can be done in bed before that first painful step in the morning. Follow along with the embedded video, or check out the easy-reference instructions below!

Make sure you have a belt or towel handy near your bedside before you go to sleep, it’s the only aid you’ll need!

Morning Heel Pain Exercise #1: Point and Flex Warmup

Do this exercise each morning to help you warm up the soft tissues in your feet and legs so that you can safely perform the rest of the exercises.

Step 1: Sit upright with your legs in front of you in bed.
Step 2: Point your toes downward as far as you can, hold the position for a few seconds, then flex your toes back up as far as you can.

Repeat this exercise 10 times.

Morning Heel Pain Exercise #2: Belt Stretch

Step 1: Sit upright with your legs in front of you in bed.
Step 2: Wrap the belt or towel around the ball of one foot, holding onto it with one hand on each side of your leg.
Step 3: Sit up as straight as possible and use your arm strength to pull the ball of the foot into a flexed position without using your foot muscles.
Step 4: Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Repeat this exercise 5-10 times. Make sure that the towel or belt is wrapped around the ball of the foot and not just the toes, this will ensure a better stretch for the plantar fascia ligament.

Morning Heel Pain Exercise #3: Massage

After you have performed the warm up and the belt stretch exercises, finish with a massage!
This will help direct more blood flow to your plantar fascia, as well as stretching and warming up the muscles and ligaments to help prepare them for your body weight when you get out of bed.

Step 1: Bend your leg toward you so that you can comfortably massage the bottom of your foot.
Step 2: Starting at the inner edge of the arch and working toward the outer edge of the arch, use gentle pressure to work your thumbs into the plantar fascia tissue.
Step 4: Massage your fingers back and forth across the arch and heel using gentle pressure for about five minutes.

Other Ways to Treat Morning Heel Pain

In addition to regularly stretching your feet before stepping out of bed, the following treatments can help improve your morning heel pain by strengthening the plantar fascia and allowing it to heal:

Wear a Sock Splint While You Sleep

Sock Night Splints are specifically designed to hold the plantar fascia in a stretched position during the night to reduce tightness in the morning.

Use Orthotic Inserts During the Day

One of the best ways to allow your plantar fascia to heal is wearing Heel Seats inside your shoes during the day. Not only will these orthotic inserts help relieve any heel pain you might feel while walking (by supporting and realigning the plantar fascia and taking pressure off any heel spurs), but they actually help address the root cause of plantar fasciitis by properly aligning a flattened and injured arch, and allowing the heel pad to rebuild.

Morning pain can feel unbearable, but thankfully it’s not untreatable. By keeping up regular stretches and supplementing with a night splint and orthotics during the day as needed, you can get the spring back in your step when you hop out of bed!

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