In the last few decades, the ancient Indian discipline of yoga (well, at least the exercise component of the discipline) has become extremely popular here in the United States.
People practice yoga for many reasons, and both personal experience and scientific studies show that it can provide significant benefits for physical and mental well-being. But did you know that yoga can be a great choice for people suffering from heel pain?
Now, that doesn’t mean you won’t also need a more formal treatment for your heel pain, such as custom orthotics or a CAM walker. But yoga can make a great companion to these treatments, providing complementary benefits to those who practice it.
Potential Benefits of Yoga for Heel Pain
Here are some of the main reasons why yoga can be so beneficial in helping to treat, manage, and prevent cases of heel pain specifically.
Yoga is a low-impact exercise, which means that the amount of pressure and strain on your muscles and joints is much lower than in activities such as running or playing basketball—even though you can still get a good full-body workout from it if you wish!
Obviously, this is good news if you already have heel pain, since it allows you to get good exercise without excessively aggravating your heels. Of course, if you don’t currently have heel pain, low-impact exercise reduces your risk of getting it in the future.
Stretching and Flexibility
One of the most widely known benefits of practicing yoga poses is increased flexibility and range of motion in your joints. Different poses, or asanas, gently stretch different muscles, joints, and supporting muscles and soft tissues.
Some of these poses, naturally, will help with stretching your plantar fascia (on the bottom of your foot), Achilles tendon, calf muscles, and other connective tissues around your heels and ankles.
That’s good news for many heel pain sufferers, since tightness in these areas is a very common reason people experience recurring heel pain. A tight Achilles, for example, can pull painfully on the heel and plantar fascia, which are all part of a connected chain. Yoga can help relax and relieve this tension.
You might not think of yoga as “strength training” in the same sense as going to the gym and lifting some weights. But in truth, many yoga poses don’t just stretch supporting muscles, tendons, and ligaments surrounding your joints—they also strengthen them. It can even help you build stronger bones.
Why does this matter for heel pain? Simply put, stronger tissues are going to be able to tolerate a much higher stress load before they get fatigued or injured. And in particular, stronger muscles in the arch will be much more effective at absorbing and dispersing force loads before they have a chance to hammer your heels.
Balance and Posture
One of the key aspects of yoga is being mindful of how your body is positioned. Where exactly your feet are. How you are standing. Finding a center of balance.
Combine that with the improved strength and flexibility going on in your legs, feet, and back, and many practitioners of yoga find that, after a while, their overall posture and gait mechanics actually change and improve. In other words, you start to both stand and walk in a more biomechanically efficient way.
As your posture and biomechanics improve, the stress on your joints goes down, as does your risk of developing chronic pain and injury throughout your body—including your heels.
Yoga can be an extremely effective way to increase circulation throughout your body—particularly to the feet and toes. That means oxygen and nutrients get to needy tissues much more efficiently, and waste products can be carried away faster.
On top of that, several recent studies have shown a clear link between practicing yoga regularly and reducing the amount of chronic inflammation in your body. While short-term inflammation is an important part of the natural healing response, chronic inflammation impairs healing and increases your risk of developing various diseases.
These and other factors help create a biological “environment” conducive to healing any stretched, torn, or otherwise damaged tissues that may be contributing to your heel pain.
Again, most people don’t necessarily see yoga as a “weight loss” exercise plan. But it is low-impact cardio, and can be a beneficial part of any comprehensive weight loss program.
The connection between weight and heel pain, of course, shouldn’t need to be explained. A heavier person puts more weight on their heels; a lighter person puts less. So, this is another way that practicing yoga can help with your heel pain.
Other Benefits of Yoga
Of course, there are plenty of other reasons you might be interested in taking up yoga that aren’t directly related to heel pain! Some additional potential benefits of the practice that we haven’t already mentioned above include:
- Decreased anxiety and stress
- Better sleep
- Improved metabolism
- Improved athletic performance
- Improved focus and mood
- Reduced risk of chronic disease
- Improved heart health
- Improved digestive system function
Comprehensive Education and Care for Your Heel Pain
If your heels are hurting, yoga can be a part of your treatment plan—but you’ll also want to have your feet examined by a professional like Dr. Dennis Tenenboym at Precision Foot and Ankle.
Heel pain is often not nearly as simple as it seems. Many different conditions and injuries can cause it, for a variety of reasons. Identifying the correct diagnosis and contributing factors is a necessary first step toward getting a customized treatment plan that will actually work for your situation.
And in the meantime, why not educate yourself with a copy of our free ebook on heel pain? There’s no cost or obligation; it’s a quick read yet packed with information, and you can download and start reading it on any device in seconds.
The book discusses causes, home treatment options, what a podiatrist can do for you, and more. Click here to request your free copy today!
Spread the News
At Precision Foot and Ankle, we want to make sure that all folks throughout the Tampa Bay area can get the care they need for their foot or ankle concerns.
One way you can help us accomplish this goal is by sharing that ebook with others who may find it helpful. Another way is by referring a friend directly to our office—and if you do so this summer, you could wind up with a free set of high-end Anodyne Shoes and matching custom molded orthotics!
This $800-value prize package will be raffled away this fall. Anyone who refers a friend, family member, colleague (or stranger) to our office is eligible to win as long as the referred person begins treatment with us before October 31, 2019.
Questions? Need to schedule an appointment for yourself? Give our office a call at (727) 399-7167 and we’ll be glad to help.