Effectiveness of calf muscle stretching for the short-term treatment of plantar heel pain: a randomised trial

Joel A Radford, Karl B Landorf, Rachelle Buchbinder and Catherine Cook

Plantar heel pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal disorders of the foot and ankle. Treatment of the condition is usually conservative, however, the effectiveness of many treatments frequently used in clinical practice, including stretching, has not been established. This study is a participant-blinded randomised trial to assess the effectiveness of calf muscle stretching, a commonly used short-term treatment for plantar heel pain.  Ninety-two participants with plantar heel pain were recruited from the general public between April and June 2005. Participants were randomly allocated to an intervention group that were prescribed calf muscle stretches and sham ultrasound (n=46) or a control group who received sham ultrasound alone (n=46).  Both treatment groups improved over the two week period of follow-up but there were no statistically significant differences in improvement between groups for any of the measured outcomes.  When used for the short-term treatment of plantar heel pain, a two-week stretching program provides no statistically significant benefit in first-step pain, foot pain, foot function or general foot health compared with not stretching.

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2007, 8:36

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