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Self Treatment Techniques for the Lower Legs & Feet

Posted by [email protected] on April 21, 2014 at 1:30 AM

Below are some stretches and muscle release techniques for leg, knee & foot pain that I have personally used with good results. Feel free to share and try these techniques, but keep in mind that they might not work for you and are not a substitute for medical treatment. If you feel any sharp pain or your problem gets worse or fails to improve, stop the activity! For more details on my favorite way to stretch or loosen my own muscles, review my Self Treatment page.

Back of Calf

There are 2 main muscles in the calf that point your toe and help you "spring off" when you walk or run. The gastroc is the big showy muscle, and is stretched best when your knee is straight. The soleus is under the gastroc, and is the more powerful muscle. Since the soleus doe not cross the knee joint, it is stretched most effectively when the knee is bent to slacken the gastroc... so stretch both ways!


Often, either the inside or outside of the soleus is more tight. You can loosen the muscle by providing direct pressure into the sorest point and flexing your foot back and forth. If the sore tight spot is on the inside of the calf, finger (or forearm) pressure works well. If the sore tight spot is on the outside of the calf, it may be easier to pull your calf down onto your opposite knee to provide the pressure.

Tibialis Anterior

Front of Calf

There are 2 main muscles on the front of your lower leg. The Tibialis Anterior lifts the toe, pulling against the often tighter calf muscles. This muscle is in the front, just outside of your shin bone. To loosen it up, kneel with a firm object pressing into its sorest spot, and flex your toes up and down until you feel some relief.


The fibularis longus (peroneal) muscle is right to the outside of the tibialis, and runs up the outside of your leg. Sit with a firm object pressing into the outside of your lower leg, and turn your foot in and out (like "rolling" your ankle) until you get some relief.


Both muscles can be stretched by pointing the toe and sitting back on your heels (gently!).



Fibularis (Peroneus) Longus

Shin Pain and Arch Support Muscles

The tibialis posterior muscle helps support the arch; it is located underneath the inside front edge of your shin bone (along with foot flexor muscles). I've read that this muscle can become weak and stop working independently (partly because the opposing fibularis longus pulling down the arch is a much larger and stronger muscle). Strengthening this muscle is not hard, and can sometime help resolve various foot and shin pain.


Sit with your right leg crossed over your left, and place the fingers of your right hand between the inside edge of your shin bone (tibia) 4-6 inches above your ankle. With your left hand, pull and point your toes and push slightly towards the floor. While holding your toes in the pointed position, raise your toes away from the floor while also scooping your foot inward. Provide just enough resistance with your hand to that it feels like you are doing little weight lifting exercises with your foot. The right hand is only being used to feel the muscles contract beneath your fingers (not pushing to do therapy). The goal is not to try and use a lot of pressure with your left hand, but to try and only use the muscles under your right fingers (while relaxing the other calf muscles). Once you train these muscles to start working again, many foot issues may be resolved.



Plantar Fascia and Pain on the Bottom of Your Foot

The plantar fascia runs from the heel to the base of each toe. Tightness in the plantar fascia is good up to a point, since it basically holds your foot together and provides a spring when you walk, jump, or run. But if the fascia is too tight, it may result in arch or heel pain (especially after being off of your feet a while, until walking helps it loosen up again), and may even cause bone spurs over time. There are a couple things you can do that may alleviate pain from tight plantar fascia.


When the foot is flexed, this fascia is directly in line and pulling on the Achilles tendon (and vice versa), so doing the calf stretches above will also help stretch out the plantar fascia. Lifting the toes during the calf stretches will accentuate the stretch. Direct massage is also good, either using a golf ball under the foot, or pressing with your hands. Gently moving the foot around under pressure (into and out of the pain zone) may help the fascia to release; if the pain doesn't decrease within 1-2 minutes, discontinue the massage.

I found a particular combination of stretching and massage helped me through a plantar fascia injury. Assuming the pain is on the right sole of you foot, cross your right leg over your left and use your right hand to pull your toes back towards your right knee. With your left fingers, push into the tightest and sorest band of fascia on the bottom of your foot, directing the pressure half way between your ankle and ball of your foot. A burning feeling will result; don't press hard enough to cause severe pain! Hold the pressure for at least 2-3 minutes, at which time you should feel a softening in the tissue and a reduction of tightness. Repeat up to 3-4 times a day.


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