Background: Since the plantar fascia and the Achilles tendon are anatomically connected, it is plausible that stretching of both structures simultaneously will result in a better outcome for plantar fasciitis.
Methods: Fifty participants aged 40 to 60 years with a history of plantar fasciitis greater than 1 month were recruited. They were prospectively randomized into 2 groups. Group 1 was instructed to stretch the Achilles tendon while group 2 simultaneously stretched the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia.
Results: After 4 weeks of both stretching protocols, participants in group 2 demonstrated a significantly greater pressure pain threshold than participants in group 1 ( P = .040) with post hoc analysis. No significant differences between groups were demonstrated in other variables ( P > .05). Concerning within-group comparisons, both interventions resulted in significant reductions in pain at first step in the morning and average pain at the medial plantar calcaneal region over the past 24 hours, while there were increases in the pressure pain threshold, visual analog scale-foot and ankle score, and range of motion in ankle dorsiflexion ( P < .001). More participants in group 2 described their symptoms as being much improved to being completely improved than those in group 1.
Conclusion: The simultaneous stretching of the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia for 4 weeks was a more effective intervention for plantar fasciitis. Patients who reported complete relief from symptoms at the end of the 4-week intervention in the simultaneous stretching group (n = 14; 56%) were double that of the stretching of the Achilles tendon-only group (n = 7; 28%).
Level of evidence: II, lesser quality RCT or prospective comparative study.
Keywords: Achilles tendon; plantar fascia; plantar fasciitis; plantar heel pain; stretching.