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Stretching keeps re-injuring me

Posted by Martin P on 7/02/04 at 08:42 (154377)

I'm 27 and generally fit, but I've had severe heel pain for about four months now. No obvious cause, but my calf muscles are very tight. I now know the importance of stretching the calf muscles, but after a few days I re-injured my heel (inflammation shot up overnight) and then managed to damage my achilles tendons. Obviously I'm not stretching now!

My questions:

1. Is there any way to loosen to calf muscles without stretching? Massage?
2. How long after my achilles tendonitis clears up can I re-start stretching? How should I do this without re-injuring (and without taping which I've been advised against)?
3. The million dollar question - once I learn how to stretch properly etc, any idea how long heel pain can take to clear up?

Many thanks,


Re: Stretching keeps re-injuring me

Chris T on 7/02/04 at 09:40 (154378)

My doctor told me to stop stetching. She said if the fascia is inflamed and you stretch you are doing more damage. Instead she told me to get a night splint which keeps the fascia and the calf in a gentle stretch all night thereby helping to lengthen those muscles and make them more pliable. It has worked miracles for me. I started wearing it in february and immediately had no pain during my first morning steps. I am now able to walk with only some minor discomfort when I overdo it. I actually did a big grocery shop yesterday and brought it all in and I was not in agony from my foot. I am also using custom orthotics and I have a massage every 2 weeks.

Re: Stretching keeps re-injuring me

john h on 7/02/04 at 09:40 (154379)

From watching some of the pro baseball players with recent achilles problems they were out of action for several months. Mark Prior of the Cubs, Mark Grude------ the Cubs 2nd baseman. They were in rehab during the months they missed. Achilles problems should be cured before you resume activity as you will just reinjure it as you use it with each step.I had a bad achilles and went to physical therapy for about two weeks which included deep and strong massage, whirlpool, ice, and yes some stretching on the incline after a week of the other therapy. I had a knot about the size of a large marble on the achilles which they basically massaged out.

Re: Stretching keeps re-injuring me

Kathy G on 7/02/04 at 10:36 (154382)

When my Achilles tendonitis was at its worst, PT had me use a tilt board and I found that helped immensely, as did the massage they did, both of which John just mentioned.

The other thing that helped me, and still helps me when it flares up, are Julie's Yoga stretches. Have you tried them? I also keep the tilt board which is homemade and kind of ugly, in the the corner of my kitchen, so I can hop on it when I feel a twinge beginning.

I wonder if you're unconciously stretching too hard? Maybe you need to be more gentle. I know that I had a tendency to overdo it and it's only after years of Julie's counsel that I have finally figured out that gentle, frequent stretching is the best route to take.

Keep in mind that I'm not a runner so perhaps my experience wouldn't be the same as yours but maybe it's worth a try.

Good luck to you!

Re: Stretching keeps re-injuring me

Kathy G on 7/02/04 at 10:39 (154383)

The Yoga exercise that helps me the most when my Achilles is acting up is the ankle bending one. It also helps the knot I get in my calf when I overdo it. And I think continued use of these exercises helps to prevent those conditions from rearing their ugly heads!

Re: Stretching keeps re-injuring me

john h on 7/02/04 at 10:39 (154384)

good for you Chris. I suspect you have had PF less than a year and are not chronic. The night splint has offered relief but not necessarily a cure to many. I still keep mine handy and should use it regularly but do not. I have never had first step pain. If one has chronic PF and pain all the time then you may be forced to stretch (gently) if you think stretching will help. I have never found stretching to make my PF worse. Sometimes it just gets worse for no known reason (Dr.Sarno's theory may kick in). Yesterday I walked a fast three miles on concrete and sprinted through the airport the day before and had no bad results just my normal level 3 pain. In my case I used the words reinjure for many years and have come to realize that I am not reinjuring the fascia as a relapse is not always associated with any activity or injury. I have found that sometimes if I change shoes or orthotics I can cause pain the next day.

Re: Stretching keeps re-injuring me

john h on 7/02/04 at 10:52 (154388)

the current PT I am seeing has me doing one thing that exerises ever muscle in your foot. I stand on one foot for 10 seconds on a piece of foam rubber. In trying to keep your balance your foot is all over the place. This is not easy to do. I alternate feet and do a series of 10 of these. Try it on a foam pillow. Be careful.

Re: Stretching keeps re-injuring me

lauriel on 7/02/04 at 11:07 (154391)

lots of good input, you might be overstretching causing the injury, we tend to think the more we stretch the better we will feel. but that is not always true especially if you are already inflamed.

I may try the night splint. I dont wake up with morning pain like most PF sufferers, but I have noticed lately I am woken up with my calf muscles cramping/tightening up. I dont know why, but I am now thinking it could be my bed, it needs to be replaced and givng me horrible back aches.


Re: Stretching keeps re-injuring me

john h on 7/02/04 at 11:12 (154393)

Martin there is no answer as to how long it will take for PF to clear up. You have not had this long so are in a great position to cure yourself with some good advice and help. The most important thing (I think) is to not to try and rush back to full activity to quick. You will just prolong your recovery and worse cause your condition to become chronic.Patience is the word by all means.You will find many things here that will help you but you have caught it early, are young, apparently in good physical shape so have an excellent chance for a complete cure. Patience, patience, patience, patience. Do not be tempted just because you feel good to resume your high level of activitiy. Work it off in the pool..

Re: Stretching keeps re-injuring me

Martin P on 7/02/04 at 11:54 (154396)

Thanks everyone for your advice. Restraint and patience seem to be the main themes I'm picking up. I'll mention the night-splint to my podiatrist and see what she thinks. Kathy - what are Julies yoga techniques please?

May come with a few more questions to all of you experienced PF sufferers in due course. Your time has been much appreciated, take care.


Re: Stretching keeps re-injuring me

Dorothy on 7/02/04 at 15:14 (154408)

I am actually troubled more with Achilles tendon pain of late than with PF and had a nasty period just recently. I used the Foot Trainers, even while in some unpleasant pain, and the condition improved considerably; a second day of more Foot Trainers and things are quite calm now.
It works for me as it did with PF and I turn to the FT at these times and they are helpful. Others may have other opinions and you would have to evaluate the product and this opinion based on your own circumstances.

I had decided I was not going to 'endorse' the Foot Trainers anymore - but I read your post in light of my own very recent use of them with Achilles pain and decided to pass this on to you to do with what you wish.

Re: Stretching keeps re-injuring me

lauriel on 7/02/04 at 17:21 (154413)

martin, go to your message for Julies yoga excercises and click on it,

dorothy, glad to hear yo are doing well with the Ft


Re: Stretching keeps re-injuring me

Chris T on 7/03/04 at 12:25 (154458)

Yes, John I did have it for less than a year. About 8 months before I finally gave in and started trying to do something about it. Actually this is about the 1 year anniversary of me getting pf. I was so please that I was able to grocery shop the other day!!!

Re: Stretching keeps re-injuring me

Jill H. on 7/04/04 at 15:49 (154491)

How did you get to the point that you could walk 3 miles again? It has been 6 months for me and I haven't been able to do any aerobic exercise as anything has made my foot worse (even swimming). I have been an avid walker and have been quite depressed. Just wondering what has worked for you - I have tried most things.

Re: Stretching keeps re-injuring me

Linda V. on 7/04/04 at 19:02 (154494)

I hear you. I am in the same boat. Walking and sometimes Jazzercize classes were my saviour in a world full of stress, and I get very, very depressed because I am unable to do either since February. I AM better, but am still limited to grocery shopping, etc...nothing extra that fills the void of walking off my stress. I was never an athlete, never one who stressed out my body with hi-power stuff...just an average 40-something woman in fairly good shape whose only true solace was a nice paced 2 mile walk while doing heavy thinking at times, or just some nice nature reflecting at times. this bites, doesn't it? i also have tried the good shoes, stretching, icing, 3 cortisone shots, etc...but i suspect that perhaps some people (us) have a more serious injury than others, and thats why others recover more quickly. we need to keep positive and support each other. we WILL get there.
linda v.

Re: Stretching keeps re-injuring me

Dorothy on 7/05/04 at 00:47 (154509)

Martin P - I've been having a heckuva time with Achilles pain the past week or so and Foot Trainers helped a lot. But what really seems to have helped A BIG LOT is yoga. I do yoga regularly but someone gave me a video recently called 'Yoga for the Rest of Us' and we did it here at home yesterday and after that, I have been feeling great!! It's pretty late now/I'm tired and I haven't had a chance today to do it again and so won't have done it for well over a day and maybe tomorrow the pain will have returned. So I will do the Foot Trainers in the a.m. and then the yoga. Seems to be a good combination.
I hope you find relief as I have some understanding of what you are experiencing. Best wishes to you ~

Re: Stretching keeps re-injuring me

john h on 7/05/04 at 09:48 (154524)

Jill: I have been dealing with this for nine years and mostly my pain level has been between 2-3 with an occasional spike to 5 and a low to 1. I think when you have had PF for a long time you get into the mind set you cannot do anything for fear you will make things worse. Over time I just decided to charge on ahead and do some things like walk three miles or hike up a mountain. For the most part these things did not make me worse or better. It sure helps the old brain and spirts. Since I recently jogged a few laps around an indoor track and actually sprinted through an airport with no bad results I am keeping my mind open as to what I can or should not do. the past few months I have started to do some simple streticng of the calf muscles and massaging the feet (cross friction). I am doing the massaging my self. When one has had this as many years as me I figure it is worth the gamble to do more than I think I should or what people tell me I should. I sure do not recommend people with PF start running or doing anything to injure themselves. I am just to the point of 'what have I got to lose?'. So far nothing, but knowning I can climb a mountain, jog a few laps, and sprint though an airport. I may write next month I am in a wheel chair but in the mean time I am trying.

Re: Stretching keeps re-injuring me

AndrueC on 7/06/04 at 10:05 (154597)

Most of us here can sympathise with what you are saying. Not being able to walk is depressing. I can particularly sympathise with you because I too enjoy walking and thinking. Even if it's just around my housing estate it's good stress relief. At present I'm a little short of 40 but just over a year ago I was semi-seriously asking myself how I would live alone in a two story house and wondering if I was just physically warn out.

Thankfully I found a very good podiatrist and he taught me several stretches. He also had me suggest some areas to concentrate on for a massage therapist and now I'm mending. I also bought some SDOs and these were very effective in the early stages (I'm sure part of their cure is stretching muscles and tissues). I still wear them now but only in rotation with other orthotics as the mood takes me.

My current theory (and that of the massage therapist) is that I am loose jointed and consequently my muscles never get much rest. They are always at a relatively high level of tension. We reckon that after hitting my mid-thirties they just couldn't keep that kind of tension up all day without complaining.

Interestingly some of the stiffest muscles are those I don't use much. I'm right handed and my left hand/arm/shoulder are always worse when I go for the massage. This might explain why I find that inactivity agravates my PF - my muscles need some activity to try and counteract static loading.

Now I'm that I'm taking steps to stretch and relax I'm back to being mobile and happy. I've been walking during lunch breaks (20 to 45 minutes) most week days and although my feet and knees feel a little sore afterward it's gone by late evening. I'm seriously contemplating going on a walking holiday next year in the English Lake District.

I'd say to anyone who has no obvious reason to be suffering PF and/or is suffering aches and pains with little or no reason to look into stretching and massage therapy.

Re: Stretching keeps re-injuring me

Jill H. on 7/07/04 at 22:15 (154815)

It is encouraging to hear people with PF having success. I can't wait until I can get out and walk again. I used to walk daily at 5:00 a.m. It is funny how much you can take simple things like walking for granted until it is no longer there!