This area of the body warrants a close look at the anatomy, while the technique itself is very simple.
This one small area, when fascially restricted, can wreak havoc on the entire foot, ankle, heel, plantar fascia and quite possibly a lot of things upstream as well, such as knees, the groin, the SI area and possibly even your neck and head (headaches CAN sometimes be related to this line of fascia being too tight/restricted).
We’re not going to look at the entire body or ALL the ways this one area can impact the body.
Today I want to focus on 3 main things: plantar fasciitis and/or heel pain that is showing up directly in line with the flexor digitorum longus and tibialis posterior tendons, and how this area plays a part in rolling ankles.
You’ll need a lacrosse ball for this one. I do NOT recommend using any other ball, nor do I recommend a theracane (I’ve seen some people use this). The first is too big, and the second too pointed and you’ll likely bruise (something I’m always trying to avoid).
This one small area packs a punch, fascially speaking:
There’s a lot going on in this one small area: the medial head of the gastrocnemius along with the soleus (meidal) and their fascia can get stuck to each other and to the flexor digitorum longus fascia. The flexor digitorum longus, when over-tight (or stuck to other muscles via their connecting fascia), can over-invert the foot, making the ankle susceptible to being rolled.
Also potentially leading to over-inversion of the foot is tibialis posterior, and via its tendon can contribute to ankle pain or heel pain between the ankle and calcaneus.
While we won’t necessarily be getting it directly, this technique can help free up the tibialis posterior, particularly the posterior tibialis TENDON which has a big impact on heel and ankle health.
If you have flat feet, fallen arches or your foot drops (arch collapses) while walking, this is one area to look at (it may not be the culprit) along with everything in the lateral line – ankle and foot fascia, tibialis anterior, perroneals, IT Band fascia etc.
The relationship these two (the medial and lateral lines of fascia) have with one another can determine SO much of what happens in our bodies, because everything in the foot and ankle determines our stride and what happens upstream. If your ankle doesn’t articulate well or creates an unhealthy gait pattern, that pattern transfers up to the knees, hips and shoulders.
As usual around here, I’m less concerned with naming all the muscles involved than talking about the restricted fascia between and around all these muscles.
Fascia also wraps our bones, and I believe this is one area of the body where the fascia of these muscles is particularly clogged or stuck to the bone (in this case the tibia).
The technique I demonstrate in the video isn’t nearly as effective as the in person version that I use on clients, but it’s an acceptable self-help solution (or I wouldn’t be giving it to you).
Reasons to use this technique:
- This is definitely worth trying if you have any kind of plantar fasciitis, but particularly any that show up directly in the bands you can see above in the pic of the ankle bone, tendons and nerves.
- You have heel pain or low Achilles tendon pain
- For the BEST result of the above, try using in combination with the calf smash/release technique. Click here for that.
- You suspect you have an over-tight soleus and all the usual calf stretching techniques aren’t getting it.
- You roll your ankles a lot – releasing this area will balance you out and not make you as prone to rolling your ankles. If you have extremely loose ligaments on the lateral side this obviously won’t make them tighter, it’ll just help balance you out.
- You have posterior tibialis issues or posterior tibial nerve issues and you suspect restricted fascia might be part of the issue.
- You want to free more freedom in your lower calf compartment and ankle!
How to get the most out of this technique:
- Please use a lacrosse ball for this! You’ll get the best result.
- Try to “grab” your fascia right at the tibia (bone) and drag it (lightly, gently) over the bone before adding compression.
- Remember you’re trying to separate the fascia that wraps the tibia from the fascia of the soleus, flexor digitorum longus and tibialis posterior (tendon).
- Use plantar and dorsiflexion (pointing like a ballerina and flexing the ankle AND toes up towards the shin) to release the fascia.
- GO SLOWLY! Moving too fast won’t yield much of a result.
- Find 2-4 spots moving up the shin.
- If you feel ANYTHING that feels like nerve pain (sharp/shooting electrical or buzzing) come off immediately.
- If you’re doing both legs, do one first and then WALK before moving on to the other one. Walking helps your body talk to itself and use those muscles again without restriction.
- Spend approximately 20-30 seconds on each spot, NO MORE.
- DO NOT PUT THE BALL ON YOUR TIBIA (SHINE BONE)!
- For best results, combine with other techniques found on this site (or elsewhere). This one area, while it packs a punch, usually isn’t the originating cause of most pain.
- Listen to your body – when you’ve had enough, STOP. If it doesn’t feel right, STOP. If you love it…keep at it!