Have you ever wondered why sitting back on your heels can be such a challenge for some while others seem to do it with relative ease? This seemingly simple posture leaves many perplexed, asking themselves, “Why can I not sit back on my heels?” The answer lies in the delicate interplay between the body’s flexibility, strength, and balance. Join us as we embark on an exploratory journey to uncover the underlying factors that contribute to this conundrum and uncover solutions for those struggling to achieve this seemingly effortless position. So, whether you’re an aspiring yogi or simply curious about your body’s mechanics, sit tight because we’re about to delve deep into the fascinating world of human physiology and movement!
- What causes heel pain?
- The Benefits & Limitations Of Sitting On The Heels For Our Health
- The Treatment Options For Heel Pain
- How Can You Sit Comfortably On Your Heels for Long Periods?
- Why Can I Not Sit Back On My Heels? 5 Simple Stretches to Help You Sit On Your Heels
- How To Practice Sitting On Your Heels With Yoga Blocks?
- What are the Benefits Of Stretching For Squatting On Your Heels?
- Does Sitting On Your Heels Hurt? Find Out How To Fix It!
- Frequently Asked Questions
- How can I sit comfortably on my heels?
- Why do my knees hurt when I sit back on my heels?
- Why do my heels hurt when I lay on my back?
- What is the fastest way to heal heels?
- How are muscle tightness and joint stiffness related to sitting back on my heels?
- Can genetics impact my ability to sit back on my heels?
What causes heel pain?
Heel pain is a common issue that many individuals face. This discomfort can significantly impact a person’s lifestyle and daily activities, making it essential to understand its possible causes. Identifying the source of the pain is vital for determining the appropriate treatment and prevention methods. Here, we will discuss seven common causes of heel pain.
- Plantar Fasciitis
Around four out of five cases of heel pain can be attributed to plantar fasciitis, making it the predominant cause.
Plantar fasciitis is where the thick band of tissue connecting the heel bone to the rest of the foot (the plantar fascia) has been damaged and thickened.
The damage is thought to be caused in two ways:
- Sudden damage – e.g., due to running, jogging, or dancing; this is more common among younger, physically active people
- Gradual deterioration of the tissues that constitute the plantar fascia – this usually affects adults over 40
- Risk Factors
The following factors can raise your chances of developing plantar fasciitis due to gradual wear and tear:
- Being obese or overweight – if your Body Mass Index (BMI) is 30 or higher, you’re considered obese
- Having a job that requires you to stand for extended periods
- Wearing flat-soled shoes, such as sandals or flip flops
- Stress Fracture
A stress fracture occurs when small cracks form in a bone due to continuous pressure or repetitive impact on that area. In the case of heel pain, stress fractures are usually found in the heel bone or other bones in the foot. Athletes and individuals with physically demanding occupations are at higher risk for developing stress fractures.
- Fat Pad Atrophy
The fat pad on your heel helps cushion and protect your foot during daily activities. However, as we age or due to certain medical conditions such as diabetes, this fat pad may become thinner and lose its protective ability, causing inflamed tissue and increased pressure on the heel bone.
Bursitis refers to inflammation of a bursa sac, a fluid-filled structure that reduces friction between tissues such as muscles, tendons, and bones. Inflammation of the bursa sac near the Achilles tendon can cause heel pain when walking, running, or even resting.
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome
The nerves running along the sole of your foot run through a narrow passageway, known as the tarsal tunnel, at the inner side of your ankle.
If this tunnel is damaged or a cyst forms, the nerve can be pressed against it, causing pain, even beneath your heel.
- Sever’s disease
Sever’s Disease is a typical source of heel pain in kids.
- It occurs when the muscles and tendons of the hamstrings and calves expand and become tighter due to growth spurts.
- The elevating calf muscle pulls on the Achilles tendon, putting strain on the growth plate at the back of the heel, consequently resulting in pain in the heel area.
- Activities such as gymnastics and football can worsen this pain, which is usually felt on the side of the heel or underneath it.
- Tendon and muscle stretches and, if needed, heel pads are generally efficient treatments for Sever’s disease.
- Bone spurs
Bone spurs refer to the excessive growth of bone on a normal bone. These can form on the heel (a heel spur), and even though they are more frequent in people with heel pain, they may also appear in persons without any heel pain experience. A heel spur itself is not responsible for heel pain.
The Benefits & Limitations Of Sitting On The Heels For Our Health
Sitting on the heels, called “Vajrasana” in yoga (in english thunderbolt pose), is a popular posture for meditation, relaxation, and stretching. Although it can be beneficial for some people, it is important to understand the potential hazards associated with this posture.
Here are some of the benefits and limitations of heel-sitting:
Benefits of Sitting On The Heels
Though it has its origins in ancient times, people living in various cultures still practice it today. In English, it is often referred to as “Indian style,” ‘Seiza‘ in Japan, ‘Yangban‘ in Korea, and ‘Turkish style’ in Turkey. It is also a formal sitting position in Japan and is accomplished by placing the heels on the floor. This style has been known to help with posture and reduce stress, so it is popular among the Japanese.
Studies have shown that Vajrasana has many beneficial effects on health and well-being:
- A 2010 study involving 12 people found that yogic procedures, including Vajrasana (thunderbolt pose), could help reduce lower back pain.
- Another 2011 article noted that Vajrasana is one of the poses – alongside Padmasana (Lotus position), Halasana (Plough Pose), Shavasana (Corpse pose), and Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) – which can be useful in managing hypertension.
- A 2009 study of 30 men suggested that yoga poses, including Vajrasana (thunderbolt pose), may enhance concentration-based performance.
In addition, Vajrasana (thunderbolt pose) can help with the following:
- Aiding digestion
- Relieving or avoiding constipation
- Strengthening pelvic muscles
Although not scientifically proven, yoga enthusiasts often tout Vajrasana as one of the finest poses for developing concentration and meditation skills. Its many other benefits include:
- Calming and stabilizing the mind
- Providing relief from digestive acidity and gas formation
- Alleviating knee pain
- Strengthening thigh muscles
- Relieving back pain
- Strengthening sexual organs
- Aiding in the treatment of urinary problems
- Increasing circulation to the lower abdominal region
- Reducing obesity
- Reducing menstrual cramps
- Uncomfortable for those with tight hips or lower back pain.
- It can put pressure on the knees and ankles, which can lead to pain and discomfort.
- It can be difficult to maintain for long periods.
- Difficult to maintain proper alignment in the spine.
- It is also not advised if you have bad knees, as it could be dangerous.
People with vascular issues or knee or ankle injuries should not attempt this sitting position. To help with any knee pain, using a yoga block or a folded blanket can be helpful.
Overall, sitting on heels can be beneficial for some people, but it is important to understand its potential risks. It is best to stop and consult a medical professional if you experience pain or discomfort while sitting on the heels.
The Treatment Options For Heel Pain
Heel pain is commonly treated through a combination of treatments, such as stretches and painkillers, to reduce pain and promote healing.
If your heel pain persists after a few weeks, book an appointment with a GP or a podiatrist. They can identify the underlying issue and provide tailored exercise recommendations.
Most heel pain lessens within a year. Surgery might be suggested as a last resort if you don’t see any improvement over that time. However, only one in twenty people with heel pain will require surgery.
Try to rest your affected foot as much as you can, avoiding long walks or standing for prolonged periods. At the same time, be sure to regularly stretch your feet and calves with the exercises below.
2. Pain relief
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can be taken to alleviate discomfort.
You can also put an ice pack on the affected heel for five to ten minutes to help with pain and inflammation. Make sure to wrap it in a towel before applying it to the skin. If you don’t have an ice pack, a packet of frozen vegetables can be used instead.
Performing stretches to your calf muscles, and plantar fascia (the band of tissues on the underside of your foot) can reduce pain and increase flexibility in your hurting foot. Various stretches exist, such as toe curls, heel raises, and towel stretches.
4. Towel stretches
This is how you do it:
- Place a long towel near your bed before you go to sleep.
- When you wake up in the morning, use the towel to wrap around your foot and pull your toes towards your body, while keeping your knee straight.
- Do this three times on each foot.
5. Wall stretches
- Put both hands on a wall at shoulder height, with one foot in front of the other (approx. 30cm/12 inches away from the wall).
- Next, with your front knee bent and back leg straight, lean in towards the wall until you feel the calf muscles of your back leg tightening. Then relax.
- This exercise should be done 10 times before changing legs and repeating the cycle.
- Aim to do wall stretches twice a day.
6. Stair stretches
- Facing upstairs, stand on a step of your stairs and use the banister for support.
- Keep your feet slightly apart, with your heels hanging off the back of the step.
- Gently push your heels down until you can feel tightness in your calves.
- Hold this position for about 40 seconds, then raise your heels back up to the starting position.
- Repeat this process six times, at least twice a day.
7. Chair Stretches
- Take a seat and bend your knees to a right angle.
- Place your feet together, with your heels touching and your toes pointing away from each other.
- Lift up the toes of your affected foot, keeping your heel flat on the floor.
- You should feel your calf and achilles tendon start to tense up.
- Hold that position for a few seconds, then release.
- Repeat this 10 times, at least 5 or 6 times a day.
8. Dynamic Stretches
Take a round object like a rolling pin, tennis ball, or chilled can from the refrigerator, and roll the arch of your foot over it (the curved bottom part of the foot between your toes and heel). Move your foot and ankle in every direction over the object for a few minutes. Do this exercise twice a day.
Your doctor or podiatrist may suggest changing up your footwear.
- Flat-soled shoes should be avoided because they won’t give your heel the necessary support and could make your heel pain worse.
- Ideal shoes are those that cushion your heels and provide arch support.
- For women, high heels, and for men, heeled boots or brogues may provide short- to medium-term relief for your pain since they help ease pressure on the heels.
- But, it may not be advisable to use these kinds of shoes for the long term, as they can lead to recurring heel pain. Your GP or podiatrist can help you decide on a more suitable pair of shoes.
You can purchase orthoses off-the-shelf from sports shops or pharmacies, or you can ask your podiatrist to recommend a supplier. Orthoses are insoles that fit into your shoe, providing support for your foot and helping with the healing of your heel.
Custom-made orthoses can be crafted for those with recurrent pain or for those with an irregular foot shape or structure. However, there is currently no proof that custom orthoses are more effective than readymade ones.
11. Strapping and splinting
Sports strapping tape (zinc oxide) can help ease the pressure on your heel by being strapped on. Your GP or podiatrist can show you how to put on the tape yourself.
In certain cases, night splints can be beneficial. Most people sleep with their toes pointing downward – this causes the tissue within the heel to be compressed.
- Night splints, which resemble boots, are constructed to keep your toes and feet facing upward while you’re asleep. This stretches both your Achilles tendon and your plantar fascia, which should hasten the time for your recovery.
- Night splints can generally be purchased from specialist shops or online retailers. Again, your podiatrist should be able to recommend a supplier.
12. Corticosteroid Injections
If you haven’t been able to relieve the pain with other treatments, your GP may suggest trying corticosteroid injections.
- Corticosteroids are potent anti-inflammatory medications, but their use can be limited due to their side effects, like weight gain and high blood pressure (hypertension).
- Therefore, it’s usually recommended that a maximum of three injections be given in any area of the body per year.
- Before getting an injection, you may receive a local anesthetic to numb the foot and make the process painless.
If treatment hasn’t worked and your symptoms persist after a year, your GP may refer you to either:
- an orthopedic surgeon – a surgeon specializing in bones, muscles, and joints
- a podiatric surgeon – a podiatrist specializing in foot surgery
Surgery is usually recommended for professional athletes and other sportspeople who experience heel pain that affects their careers significantly.
How Can You Sit Comfortably On Your Heels for Long Periods?
- Stretch Regularly: To sit comfortably on your heels for extended periods, it’s crucial to keep your muscles and joints flexible. Incorporate regular stretching exercises into your routine, focusing on your hips, thighs, and calves.
- Choose a Suitable Surface: The surface on which you sit plays a significant role in the level of comfort experienced while sitting on your heels. Opt for a softer surface, like a cushioned yoga mat or carpeted area, to reduce stress on your knees and ankles.
- Gradual Adjustment: If you’re not used to sitting on your heels for long periods, it’s essential to allow your body time to adjust. Start by sitting in the position for short intervals and gradually increase the duration over time.
- Use Props: A folded blanket or yoga block can be placed between your buttocks and heels to alleviate pressure on the knees and ankles, making it more comfortable to maintain the position.
- Mind Your Posture: Ensure you maintain proper alignment while sitting on your heels by keeping your spine straight and shoulders relaxed. Proper posture helps distribute weight evenly and reduces strain on the muscles.
- Take Breaks: Regardless of how comfortable you may be while sitting on your heels, it’s still essential to take breaks and change positions regularly. Doing so allows better blood circulation and prevents stiffness in the joints.
By following these six simple steps, you can enjoy sitting on your heels comfortably for extended periods without causing unnecessary strain or discomfort.
Why Can I Not Sit Back On My Heels? 5 Simple Stretches to Help You Sit On Your Heels
Sitting back on your heels, also known as the Vajrasana or “Thunderbolt” pose in yoga, is a common position for meditation and relaxation. However, some individuals find it challenging to sit comfortably in this position. Several factors can contribute to the inability to sit back on your heels.
Factors Affecting Your Ability to Sit Back on Your Heels
- Ankle flexibility: Stiffness in the ankle joint is a common cause of difficulty in this position. Limited range of motion due to tightness in the calf muscles and Achilles tendon may contribute to the inability to sit back comfortably on your heels.
- Knee flexibility: The posture demands considerable knee flexion; therefore, those with limited knee flexibility might find it challenging to maintain the position for extended periods or even at all.
- Hip mobility: Tightness in the hip flexors, glutes, and hamstrings can hinder your ability to sit back on your heels comfortably.
- Quadriceps strength: The muscles involved in holding this posture include your quadriceps or thigh muscles. Weakness in these muscles can make it difficult to maintain proper form and contribute to discomfort.
- Tight calf muscles: When calf muscles are tight, it can restrict ankle mobility, making it difficult to move the ankle joint properly when attempting to sit back on your heels.
5 Simple Stretches to Help You Sit On Your Heels
To help you sit on your heels more comfortably, here are some simple stretches that can enhance your flexibility and make practicing the Vajrasana pose much more enjoyable.
1. Quadriceps Stretch
- Stand up straight and rest your left hand on a wall or a steady object for balance.
- Bend your right knee and hold your ankle with your right hand, bringing your foot closer to your buttock.
- Keep your upper body straight and gently pull on the ankle to stretch the quadricep muscle in the front of the thigh.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds and switch legs. Repeat 3 times on each side.
2. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
- Position yourself in a lunge with your right foot forward and your left knee on the ground.
- Place both hands on top of your right thigh while keeping your torso upright.
- Gently lean forward into the lunge allowing your left hip to open up and stretch.
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, and then switch legs.
- Repeat this stretch 3 times on each side.
3. Child’s Pose
- Kneel on the floor with your legs together, sitting back on your heels and resting your buttocks on them.
- Separate your knees hip-width apart and slowly lean forward, folding at the hips until your forehead is touching the ground.
- Extend your arms out in front of you, palms flat on the floor, to stretch through the shoulders and upper back.
- Breathe deeply and hold this pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute, feeling a gentle stretch in the hips, thighs, and lower back.
4. Ankle Stretch
- Begin by sitting on your knees with your feet flat on the floor and your toes pointing straight back.
- Slowly lean back, placing your hands behind you for support.
- Gently press down on the tops of your feet to stretch your ankles.
- Hold this position for 15-30 seconds, then release.
- Repeat this stretch 3 times, taking short breaks in between.
5. Calf Stretch
- Start by standing with one foot in front of the other, both feet pointing straight ahead.
- Keeping both feet flat on the ground, bend your front knee while keeping your back leg straight.
- Lean forward slightly so that you feel a stretch through the calf muscle of your back leg.
- Hold this position for 15-30 seconds, then switch sides and repeat with the other leg.
- Do this stretch 3 times on each side.
How To Practice Sitting On Your Heels With Yoga Blocks?
Yoga blocks are incredibly helpful for achieving the right posture, which can be a challenge without them. And you don’t need to worry about feeling uncomfortable, as the blocks can be arranged in different ways.
- Try sitting in the same position with two or three blocks of varying heights and remain seated for 30 seconds.
- After this time has passed, you can remove one of the blocks and it’ll be easier to lay down.
- Unless you’re exhausted from the practice, use both sides of the block.
What are the Benefits Of Stretching For Squatting On Your Heels?
- Improved Flexibility: Stretching regularly helps loosen up the muscles and increases the overall range of motion, allowing for greater freedom of movement when squatting on your heels.
- Enhanced Balance and Stability: Stretching promotes better proprioception, balance, and coordination, which are crucial for maintaining a stable, controlled squat on your heels.
- Reduced Risk of Injury: By developing muscle flexibility, stretching helps prevent muscle strains and tears during intense squatting or other physical activities.
- Increased Muscle Control: As you stretch consistently, you improve neuromuscular communication, leading to better muscle activation when squatting on your heels.
- Quicker Recovery Time: Stretching assists in the circulation of blood and nutrients to your muscles, helping them recover more quickly after a strenuous workout, including squatting on your heels.
- Better Posture and Alignment: Regular stretching helps maintain proper posture by lengthening tight muscles that may pull your body out of alignment during movements like squatting on your heels.
Does Sitting On Your Heels Hurt? Find Out How To Fix It!
If you’re experiencing discomfort when sitting on your heels, it’s likely due to tight muscles in your hips or legs. Try incorporating some simple stretches into your daily routine to help ease the tension and improve your flexibility.
It is also important to practice heel sitting regularly to protect your hips and legs. This is how you get the most out of this exercise:
- Start by sitting in a chair and keeping your feet on the ground.
- Then, lift one foot and place it on the opposite thigh.
- Gently massage your foot’s arch and hold this position for 10 seconds.
- Repeat this ten times. Move to a kneeling position and keep your thighs straight.
- Press your butt to your heels and rock back and forth to open your knees.
This exercise is great for working the muscles on the top of the feet, loosening them up, and relieving any pain in the back of your legs. It also boosts your equilibrium and flexibility.
To enhance the range of motion and suppleness of your leg muscles, lay on your back and move your hips forward. When you do this, your back knee should bend, and you should be able to experience the stretch in the posterior of your legs. As you do this stretch, remember to inhale and exhale deeply and keep your knees wide apart. If the pain persists, seek the assistance of a chiropractor or physical therapist.
If you are considering practicing Vajrasana (thunderbold pose), it is crucial to be aware of specific contraindications. Yoga practitioners recommend avoiding this pose if you have:
- Knee issues or recent knee surgery: Vajrasana (thunderbold pose) requires bending the knees and sitting on the heels, which can cause strain or discomfort for those with knee injuries or post-surgery recovery.
- Spinal cord conditions, particularly in the lower vertebrae: This pose involves an upright posture that may aggravate existing spinal issues or cause discomfort in affected areas.
- Intestinal ulcers, hernias, or related problems: As Vajrasana (thunderbold pose) involves compressing the abdominal area, it may exacerbate pre-existing conditions such as ulcers or hernias.
Additionally, if you are pregnant, consult with your doctor before practicing Vajrasana. Opinions vary on whether this pose is safe during pregnancy; some believe it should be avoided entirely, while others consider it acceptable if certain precautions are taken.
For example, keeping your knees apart can help prevent undue stress on your abdomen. Your doctor will have insight into your individual situation and can provide a personalized recommendation based on your specific needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I sit comfortably on my heels?
Reduce foot pain when wearing high heels by taking regular breaks and sitting down. Cross your legs and keep your back straight, then stretch your legs to your waist. This gives your feet a chance to rest and stay fresh.
Why do my knees hurt when I sit back on my heels?
Sitting in the wrong position or for too long can hurt your knees. Most grown-ups may feel pain when sitting on their heels/cross-legged. These positions put pressure on the knee joints, causing discomfort.
Why do my heels hurt when I lay on my back?
If your heel is aching when you lie down to sleep, it is likely due to inflammation of the plantar fascia, a flat tendon-like structure that runs from your heel to the bottom of your foot.
What is the fastest way to heal heels?
6 Solutions to Say Goodbye to Heel Pain:
- Have a Break: Get some rest – it’s the best way to recover from heel pain.
- Do Some Stretching: Stretch your feet to promote circulation and prepare your muscles and tendons.
- Ice it Up: Ice helps reduce inflammation and provide relief.
- Reach for Pain Relievers: Over-the-counter medications can help ease heel pain.
- Invest in Shoe Inserts: Customized shoe inserts can support your feet and reduce discomfort.
- Go for Comfortable Shoes: Avoid buying shoes that may cause pain.
How are muscle tightness and joint stiffness related to sitting back on my heels?
Tight muscles in the quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocnemius, and soleus can impact the flexibility and range of motion in your knee and ankle joints. Joint stiffness in the knees and ankles can further limit this range of motion, making it challenging to sit back on your heels.
Can genetics impact my ability to sit back on my heels?
Genetics can play a role in determining your overall flexibility and joint structure. However, most people can improve their mobility through consistent practice and gentle stretching exercises.
The inability to sit back on one’s heels can result from a combination of factors such as limited ankle mobility, tight muscles, weakened joints, or previous injuries. As we’ve explored throughout this article, addressing the underlying issues is crucial for regaining flexibility and preventing future discomfort. By incorporating targeted stretches, strengthening exercises, and potentially seeking professional guidance, individuals can gradually work towards improving their ability to sit back on their heels comfortably. Not only will this enhance overall physical well-being, but it will also positively impact daily activities and athletic performance.
If someone you know or even you suffer from heel pain, Achilles tendonitis, or plantar fasciitis, try these exercise strategies (or an ergonomic seat cushion) to find relief and feel better again.