Heel Pain

judy_jaySeptember 15, 2006

A few years ago I was bothered by plantar facitis (sp.?) or heel pain. It switched from one heel to the other & finally disappeared altogether as the podiatrist said it would. He treated it with a whirlpool bath & cortisone shots but neither one really helped. It just went away the same way it came, from nothing. Now it's back but I can't go back to the podiatrist because I'm not in that area any more. Does anyone have any suggestions of what I can do at home to relieve the pain? I plan on buying a gel heel cap to put in my shoe to at least get some relief. Thanks for your help.

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Hi Judy,

I had plantar fasciitis horribly a number of years ago. It felt like I'd never walk again. I have a wonderful podiatrist. I think what helps the most is an inlay that supports your arch. Plantar fasciitis usually occurs because the tendon that inserts into our heel is too short/tight. When you support your arch, and keep your foot from flattening out, it keeps from pulling on that tendon.
I'm not sure if an otc inlay with an arch would be enough support, or if you'd need to have one made. You could definitely start out with an otc one that advertises a good arch. You could also add a small heel cushion on the affected foot too, but some of those otc inlays already have cushioned heels.
Can you tolerate NSAIDS? (ibuprofen, aleve, etc.). If you can, then start taking as much of that as possible for a couple of weeks.

Also, there's an exercise that will help stretch that tendon out. What you do is stand in front of a wall and lean into it, while putting back one leg at a time. Keep your foot flat on the floor, and you will feel the entire back of your calf stretching. I would do hold the stretch for about 20 seconds, and then repeat maybe 5 times. Then I would repeat the exercise 3 times a day.
I'm not sure I explained the exercise very well. Do an internet search for something like "foot tendon stretching exercise), and hopefully, it will show you pictures. You can also do this exercise on a slanted board (both feet at once).
You can also ice your heel a couple times a day to reduce swelling.
I'm very suprised your old doc didn't make you an inlay with an arch support and a heel cushion.
I'm sure you could find another podiatrist where you live now.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2006 at 6:21PM
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I agree with everything the above poster said. If you don't want to have custom orthotics made immediately, try an OTC pair with cork for support, like the ones I've linked to below. They work very well for me.

Another thing that a sports medicine doctor told me was to wear shoes with arch supports all the time, even when you wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. I use a pair of Birkenstock slip-on sandals as slippers, which makes this easy. I notice if I slip for a day or two and walk barefoot or in socks, I can feel the pain returning.

Good luck, and I hope the pain goes away sooner rather than later.

Here is a link that might be useful: cork arch supports

    Bookmark   September 15, 2006 at 6:41PM
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Thanks so much to you both for the advice. I have orthotics at home that the dr. gave me yrs. ago so will try that. Also, I will try the stretching exercises & look it up to find out anything else.

Thanks, again, for the prompt response. I'm so glad to be back on this site. I dropped off a few yrs. ago but am back to stay now.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2006 at 7:43PM
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This is kind of a bucket of cold water, but I have to say that all of the above things may work and they may not. I did all of it. I had the expensive custom orthotics. I wore very good shoes. I stretched out my hamstrings thousands of times. I had cortisone shots. Finally I had surgery. I had a bone spur in my heel in addition to the plantar fasciitis. Most people respond very well to surgery but I was left with the sensation of walking on a wadded up sock. I am diabetic and don't heal well, so that may be the reason. Still, I am better off than I was before. I can walk much further than I could previously. My custom orthotic no longer fits but I do still wear inserts. I don't wear anything that has a sole that can be bent. I had to get all new shoes because the fasciitis release left my right foot a half size larger. That hurt!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2006 at 8:16PM
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Hi devorah,
I think alot of women with fibro have short tendons. Do you have fibro? (I'm sorry I can't remember).
I have to constantly "baby" my heels. Constantly. When I get that first twinge in them, I really have to try really hard to cushion it.
I had knee surgery recently, and developed severe toe pain (neuroma?), probably from limping so much. This required going without shoes at home, and I'm really scared that it will flare up the plantar fasciitis. Anyone who has had it, REALLY doesn't want it again!!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2006 at 10:05AM
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Yes, I do have fibro. I never made the connection, but it sounds logical.

My toes cramp so bad after I have been walking for a while that I have to stop and rest them. I told my podiatrist about it and he just looked at me like I was nuts. I had nerve conduction studies done on the other side of my body and I am loath to repeat it. Yowza that was painful!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2006 at 11:53AM
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For me, the above exercises and arch supports really worked. I really like the older wooden Dr. Scholl's sandals with built in arch supports -- expensive, but worth it. As we get older, our arches naturally fall. Try to avoid surgery, if possible.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2006 at 12:08PM
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devorah.......I'm wondering if you have a neuroma. That's what I've been working on recently. A "morton's neuroma" occurs in the nerve between the 3rd and 4th toe. After I walk for about a hour, my toes start stinging so bad I can't stand it. They get numb too. I've been putting off going to my podiatrist, because he moved about 60 miles away. But I know he would fix it for me.
I'm in PT for my knee, and asked my therapist about it. She gave me an inlay and also put a piece of padding under the metatarsal part of the inlay. It has REALLY helped with the toe pain. But I still get it a little bit, and when I do, I go shoeless at home, and that calms it down. Also, ice helps too.
To be honest with you, I'm thinking you really need to change podiatrists. No offense, but your's sounds like he doesn't know much. Not all podiatrists are created equal! I know that from personal experience!
So please, change podiatrists. Look up "morton's neuroma" on the internet, and tell me if that's what you think you have. Also......try taking some calcium and magnesium supplements. They help with spasms.
Both your problems sound like they could benefit from a good metatarsal arch support. Your feet might be too different from when your first one was made, to help much.

Woodnymph.....are you talking about those wooden things with the leather strap on top? I always really loved those, but couldn't begin to wear them. That bump under the metatarsal was impossible for me to walk over. Darn. I really liked the looks of them.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2006 at 1:22PM
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Yes, those are the standard Dr. Scholl's. They help me a lot. Another thing that might help is foot massage. You can buy those wooden foot massagers that ballet dancers use. They help prevent cramping and are not expensive.

Another simple exercise to stretch the Achilles tendon, which is related to the heel issues: stand on the stairs, holding on to something, and just go up and down, on your toes, as high as you can, with your heels hanging off the edge and then take the heels down as far as you can. Repeat and do daily. Dancers use this exercise to help flexibility and they often have foot problems.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2006 at 10:13AM
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I read all the descriptions of Morton's neuroma and that doesn't seem to be my problem. It's the tips of the toes that hurt. I agree that I need to see a different podiatrist.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2006 at 11:55PM
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What has done absolute wonders for me is to avoid putting my foot at an angle greater than 90 degrees. If this doesn't make sense, picture yourself laying in bed on your back. Your toes can point towards the ceiling, or even towards yourself, but they cannot be pointing away from you. This is what my mother's physical theraparist taught her, and, man, was he right!

I was in agony til I started paying attention to foot angles. What I had never noticed was that I was doing two very bad things to my feet. (1) I was sitting Japanese style a lot (i.e. sitting on my ankles) and (2) in bed, I was letting the bed clothes flatten my feet away from me, until my feet were pretty much at a 180 degree angle. When I stopped doing that, I stopped being in agony.

Of course, you'll still want to do the stretches above and worry about footwear, but just keeping in mind foot angles will sure help.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2006 at 8:11PM
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I too suffered from plantar factis a few years ago. When sitting down I couldn't let my foot touch the ground, I had to lay my foot down on my ankle! OTC shoe inserts, stretching exercises and foot massages eventually took care of the problem. The easiest stretching exercise is to sit in a recliner with your feet raised, then point your toes back towards your head. You'll feel the stretch immediately. I really feel the turning point for me was the foot massage. I think it may have increased the blood flow and helped to heal my heals. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   September 30, 2006 at 8:29AM
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I agree about the massage. And this is something you can do yourself. It should be obvious, but high heels only make the situation worse. If anything, earth shoes would be better. High heels throw your entire body out of alignment and affect not only your feet, but your knees and spine.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2006 at 4:05PM
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I have been struggling with plantars for several months. What a nuisance. And I'm on crutches too, and it's the good foot that hurts. When I saw the dr. about my leg, I completely forgot to ask about the plantars on the other foot.

I'm being very diligent about the stretching, but I was wondering if those boot-type things which can be worn at night to keep the foot at a 90-degree angle help too. See link to Footsmart below. They have another sturdier version also. I laughed the first time I saw it, but I'm not laughing now.

Xantippe mentioned this above, but she did not say HOW to keep the foot at 90 degrees. Once sleeping, it would be difficult.

Do doctors recommend this, or is this just something dreamed up by retailers?

Here is a link that might be useful: Nighttime foot thingie

    Bookmark   March 12, 2007 at 6:33PM
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Hi socks,
I don't know about those boots. It seems like if you stretched right before bed, that should be enough.
Why are you on crutches? The times that I've had a problem with one leg, I've noticed that its a strain on the other leg/foot.
Are you wearing orthotics? In my experience, plantar fasciitis is really helped with good arch supports.
If you're not making any progress, could you have some steroid injections? I had those a couple times and they helped alot. But what helped the most was the orthotics.
I was talking to my physical therapist, and she said that the foot doctor there is finding that in order for those stretching exercises to be most beneficial, you need to do them for 10 minutes.
I need to make myself a little ramp. I find those much more useful than just bending and stretching my leg/ankle.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 12, 2007 at 8:41PM
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I have a fractured bone in one leg, and PF in the other foot. What a mess, but I carry on anyway! This is probably the foot's reaction to doing ALL the work! (What a wimpy foot! LOL!) Actually I've graduated to one crutch, and maybe a cane one of these big days. In the meantime, my foot is really sore.

I was also thinking that boot might slip down unless the ankle part was pretty tight. I have been hit and miss with the stretching, but now I'll be more diligent about it, and do it longer like you suggested.

Thanks for your kind reply.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2007 at 10:39PM
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Hi again socks,
I had foot surgery on my left foot about 10 years ago. That's when I started having problems with my right foot.
Then I had surgery on my right knee last summer, and began having lots of problems in that foot, and then the left foot.
I think having any problems at all with our hips or legs really causes problems "down stream" with our feet.
I wish doctors understood this, and were more on the look-out for those potential problems. Like you said, when we injure one side, our other side has to do alot more work.
One thing my physical therapist really stressed with me this last time, is to try to never limp. Try to walk a normal gait. I know that sounds silly and difficult, but it really helps. When we limp, we throw lots of other things out of whack, plus it becomes sort of a habit.
If you don't want to see a foot doctor and get a custom-made orthotic, you can buy one in most stores. Just look for one with a good arch support. You'd be surprised how much stress on the heel can be relieved by supporting your arch. Also, I would suggest a soft/gel heel pad. I wore a heel pad alot, and eventually got an orthotic made that had a hollow in the heel, so that it wouldn't get the heavy impact all the time.
Can you take NSAIDS?(ibuprofen, aleve, etc.) They can help alot with any inflammation that's going on too.
Try to take care of this ASAP, since the longer it goes on, the longer it might take to heal it.
How are you doing your heel stretches? Some people suggest standing backwards on a step and letting your foot go downwards. If you're doing it this way, be sure to have shoes on.....otherwise you could hurt your foot in other ways.
The body is a great thing.....until it starts misbehaving! Hang in there!

    Bookmark   March 13, 2007 at 8:52AM
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Thanks for all the great suggestions, Catherine. You definitely have experience with foot and knee problems. Yes, the "toe bone is connected to the ankle bone," etc.

Now that I am on one crutch, I can walk with a pretty normal gait, and I try hard to do that and watch my posture too. It looks like I don't need the crutch, but I do, at least for now. That's a good reminder to try to walk "normally."

I also have custom orthotics, and wear them every day. The gel heel cups and the orthotics don't work together, but I can sometimes get an extra soft insole under the orthotic in some shoes. I wear walking shoes, not cute shoes like I want to wear. I wore the gel cups for a couple days without the orthotics, and my feet hurt like crazy. The orthotics are essential.

I think you are right about the anti-inflammatory. I don't much like to take pain killers because then I don't know if I'm getting better. But for the anti-inflammatory value, that would probably be a good idea. I'll have to pick up some Aleve...that's an anti-inflammatory, right?

I'm stretching, stretching, every couple of hours, and pretty hard stretching too, with hands on the wall. I've never known whether to use ice or heat, but last night I iced. My foot felt pretty good today. I work at a school and am on my feet most of the day. If it started to hurt, I stopped and stretched.

You are also very right about not letting this linger. I'm making these efforts this week, and if I don't see continuing improvement, I'll get back to the doctor.

Thanks again for all your advice. You are kind to be helpful.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2007 at 8:00PM
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Hi Susan,
Have you tried to insert some sort of heel cushion on top of your orthotic? I've done that, and it didn't seem to change anything. In fact, for a long time, that's what I did....until I got new orthotics that had a hollowed-out cushioned heel built into it.
One thing I've learned with my knee problems is that you are supposed to ALWAYS use ice.....never heat. I can't take NSAIDS, since they cause me alot of GI problems, so I use an ice pack as an anti-inflammatory. You should probably be icing your heel 3-4 times a day, if you can.
Yes, Aleve is an NSAID. And if that doesn't work for you, try another kind. There are different ones.....like Ibuprofen versus naproxyn. When I did take Aleve in the past, it worked for me much better than Ibuprofen, so I think different ones work better for some than others.
I'm curious.......what kind of a doc are you seeing for this? Back when I had plantar fasciitis, I tried an orthopedic doc and got nowhere. Then I found this wonderful podiatrist. Unfortunately, he moved about 70 minutes away and I hate the interstate drive there. He always fixed me, no matter what the problem.
Well, with this recent foot problem, I decided to try another local, reputable orthopedic foot doctor........and I'm afraid he hasn't helped much, so I might end up going back to the podiatrist (even though I spent over $400 on the orthopedic doc). Orthopedic docs don't have much respect for podiatrists.......but the one I had was so much better than they were!
I'm having a weird problem with my foot now. I saw the doc for stinging toe pains. He said I didn't have a neuroma, but gave me a generic orthotic with a metatarsal pad added to it.
It helped, but about a week after I started wearing them, I could hardly walk in the mornings when I got up, or whenever I would sit down for a bit, if I didn't have my shoes on. Its like my whole foot is frozen stiff from my metatarsal arch forward.
Its such a bummer to have our feet hurt.....since they have to hold up the rest of us! I'm doing the stretches and icing, but it doesn't seem to help. So now I have to decide who I want to go see again.
May I ask if you're in perimenopause/menopause? I'm in menopause, and also have fibromyalgia. I find that I get these flare-ups, where many joints in my body start hurting and getting very stiff. I think I'm in one now, and hopefully it will pass soon. Maybe that's part of your problem, and this will pass for you too!

    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 10:41AM
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I'm icing! Next week I might be able to do more
during the day, but not this week.

I saw the orthopedist once last year about the PF, and he gave me the heel cups and told me to roll the foot arch on a bottle-shaped object and stretch the foot with a towel. I think I'd better stick with my ortho since I have the complication of trying to heal a fracture at this time. I might call him for an appt. next week if I'm still being troubled. Today was a little better, but I was so busy I didn't have time to stretch as much.

I don't have fibromyalgia, but I know what a terrible thing it is as my mother-in-law has it. I'm sorry you have that problem along with all your foot problems. All we can do is just keep trying to get better. But having limitations in walking is discouraging.

Take care, an thanks again for your help.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 8:02PM
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sammy zone 7 Tulsa

Oh, I cannot read all of this, but I did jump in for the March threads.

I agree with what Catherinet said in September, but I have one addition. When you exercise one set of muscles, the opposite can tend to weaken. So, if you exercise in such a way that you are strengthening the front of your calves then the back gets a little weaker - and shorter. It then affects the achilles tendon that affects the plantar fasciitis. Soooo, people with PF should do exactly what Catherinet said except I was told to do it on a step of the stairway. You concentrate, and lower one heel at a time. You do this as often as you can remember, and it really helps.

I refused to take any treatment because I am afraid it would affect bone density. As I was waiting for morning coffee at work, a chiropractor who was one of our baseball coaches told me what to do. I was at the place where I wanted to crawl to the bathroom first thing in the morning. Before I could loosen up my foot, I would try to go to the bathroom, and hurt it -- just a little, but enough to set me back.

I also fix my own shoes to suit my foot. But the leg thing did more than anything.


    Bookmark   March 15, 2007 at 7:52PM
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Oh Sammy, you made me laugh. I tried crawling to the bathroom once and skinned my knee on the carpet!

I called the ortho today and talked to the physician's asst. She said keep stretching, keep icing, take an anti-inflammatory like Aleve. They can do some kind of shot. (No thanks!!!!!) So I'm starting the Aleve today, continuing stretching and ice.

Hey, I wondered about accupuncture. Anyone tried that for PF? We've got a good accupuncturist in our area.

This is such a nuisance.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2007 at 8:00PM
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I could never believe how much pain PF can actually cause! Especially in the mornings!
I don't think one shot of cortisone would hurt your bones. Sometimes that's the only thing that can break the cycle of inflammation.
I've been doing my stretches, but it doesn't seem to help my current foot problem. When I first get up in the morning, or after sitting for awhile, I look like I have a club foot! My toes are all curled under. I limp around like Igor!
I talked to my physical therapist and she said it could be a type of PF.....but in the front of the foot. I didn't know that could happen. I'm starting to feel like if something CAN happen, it will happen to me!

    Bookmark   March 15, 2007 at 9:19PM
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sammy zone 7 Tulsa

If your toes are curling, do you think that is PF or a cramp? I have all hammertoes except for my big toe. It isn't a problem if they are all hammertoes like it is if only one is a hammertoe. I have a problem with my feet cramping. Fortunately I teach school, and am required to walk. If I were required to sit at a desk, it would be a greater problem, but I can walk out the cramps, and I can wear comfortable shoes. Stretching on the step made all the difference with me, but I had no injury, just the PF.

My bone density is not good, and I am taking Fosamax to improve it. I do think that doctors like to fix something immediately rather than give you a long term change that will fix it. I have never heard of someone getting more than a slight instant brief relief from the shots, so I have tried to avoid the early morning injury, and exercise. However if my doctor gave me a good reason, and really wanted me to have a shot, I would take it. But I do know that those shots contribute to lower bone density, and that is a harder fix than the Plantar Fasciitis. (It is early in the morning, and I never have been happy with the way I spell that.

I do firmly believe in doctors, and would do almost anything they said. Mine have just suggested the shot, so I chose to exercise. I think anyone with other things going on rather than the PF are in a different category, and shouldn't try what I try.

By the way, I almost forgot. If I sleep on my stomach, I usually allow my feet to dangle off the end of the bed.


    Bookmark   March 16, 2007 at 6:46AM
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I am finally getting over this after a year. I have stopped going bare foot and I sleep in a foot brace. Even when I get up to go to the BR at night, I put on shoes, and I hate wearing shoes, but the change has been so miraculous I feel like I'm holding my breath waiting for it to come back. No more flat flip flops--shoes w/ good support.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2007 at 9:18PM
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A year, Vannie! That's a long time to struggle with an aching foot.

What kind of brace did you sleep with? A rigid one or a softer one like I linked above?

What else did you do? Stretch? Ice?

I'd sure like to hear what worked for you.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2007 at 1:05AM
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Sorry this response has taken so long. I just now read your post and I tell you, the best thing I've done was to stop going bare footed. This was really hard, b/c I always went barefooted, unless I was away from home. The brace I sleep in is not as rigid as the one someone posted. I got it at CVS pharmacy. It's black and closes w/ 5 velcro straps. I put New Balance tennies on even when I go to the BR during the night. It was a hard habit to get into, but the first day I was pain free, I thought, wow! what's going on here? I also used to sit at my computer w/ my feet up in the chair--not exactly Indian style, but similar. I've stopped that, too. Feet flat on the floor in those NB shoes. I do so appreciate this lack of pain. I think most things involving muscles take about a year to heal. Disheartening, but I had a frozen shoulder once and it took a year. I've talked to other people w/ this heel problem and they all said 1 year. Better than thinking it's going to be chronic!

    Bookmark   March 28, 2007 at 9:24PM
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Thanks, Vannie. I'm glad you got through this annoying problem.

I have to say mine is a little better. (It has been 4 months.) I went to a massage therapist and she worked the foot over pretty well. It felt better by the next day, and I've been massaging it twice a day as much like she did as possible. Sometimes I sit on the edge of the tub, wet & soap the foot, an it makes it easy to massage. I stroke slowly from the heel towards the ball of the foot. I also took 10 days of Aleve.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 7:29PM
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I'm surprised no one has mentioned going to a chiropractor. I had heel spurs and plantar fasciitis very bad about 12 years ago and went to a chiropractor where I lived. I'd previously gotten orthotics from my doctor, which did no good, physical therapy, also nothing, and a shot of cortisone into the heel. Worst pain I've ever felt in my life! Even thinking about it now makes me a little nauseous.

I moved out of the area and stopped going, but last fall the plantar fasciitis started hurting again, so now I'm going to another chiropractor. He adjusted for subluxations, is correcting my posture, and got me custom orthotics. My heel pain is MUCH better. I also found out from the x-rays that I have scoliosis and dowager's hump, so I'm getting that fixed, too. I expect the plantar fasciitis to gradually go away and stay away as long as I keep on maintenance chiropracty.

The only other things I've found that help is stretching and codeine, and obviously I can't be on codeine all the time. OTC pain relievers did nothing. I concur with others about the stretching. Anything that will stretch out the calf and the tendon in back of the heel.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2007 at 11:24PM
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