Did you know….The Achilles tendon is the most commonly ruptured tendon in the human body? Located on the lower back of the leg between the heel bone and the calf muscle, this tendon plays a huge role in the mobility of the foot, and ultimately your entire body.
Many people experience pain in this area which can make regular physical activities like walking, running, jumping, hiking, and dancing very difficult since it plays an integral role in how the leg bears weight. Since major issues involving the Achilles tendon often require surgery, it is wise to incorporate stretches, and strengthening exercises that contribute to the proper functioning of this important body part.
Here are just 5 stretches for your Achilles tendon to help alleviate pain, and prevent potential injury:
1. Calf Stretches.
Calf stretching is a great way to loosen up the tendon right below the muscle because as the calf stretches so does the Achilles tendon. There are numerous calf stretches, and all of them can be modified to get deeper into the muscles, and ligaments while engaging the Achilles tendon as well. Here is one calf stretch to get you started:
1. Stand with your feet facing forward, and place your right foot behind your left.
2. Then, bend your left leg slightly, and reach it forward with the right leg straight.
3. Do NOT bend your right knee, and keep your right foot firmly on the ground with it pointed forward.
4. Hold that pose for at least 30 seconds.
5. Repeat steps 1-4 on the opposite side.
2. Wall Downward Dog.
Place your hands shoulder-width apart against a wall, and then walk your legs backwards so the space between the wall, and your feet is between the length of your torso, and full body. Firmly press both heels down into the ground with equal pressure, and press your chest inward. After 30 seconds, slowly come onto the tips of the toes to begin working on the strength of your calf muscles. After about 10 seconds on the toe tips pushing the balls of the feet into the floor, slowly set your heels back down, and stretch your tendons, and calves out again. Repeat this sequence up to 6 times.
3. Down Dog Exercises.
With your hands, and feet on a yoga mat, or soft towel get in down dog position. Place your feet hip-width apart, and turn your heels out slightly so that they can’t be seen behind the foot. After stretching the calves, and tendons for up to 30 seconds, start to walk the feet out by bending one knee, and taking the opposite heel all the way down to the ground for a few seconds. Alternate, and switch legs up to 10 times on each side, and then start to bring the shoulders forward over your wrists. This will give your heel more room to press down, giving the tendon even more of an opportunity to stretch.
4. Heel Lowering.
Find a step, or slab of sidewalk to stand on. Beginning with both feet flat on the ground, take one foot back so that half of it is still on the surface, and the other half is hanging off the edge. Bend the front knee slightly, and then lower the heel down with your back leg straight. Gradually take the heel lower until you feel the tendon at its full length, and hold it there for up to 10 seconds. You can also bend the back knee to get into the lateral side (soleus) of the gastrocnemius muscle. It feels oh-so good!
5. Sitting Egg.
Start standing with the feet slightly closer together than shoulder-width apart, bend the knees until your bottom makes contact with your heels. Bring the hands forward, and move your weight from the heels to the balls of your feet by sliding the hands across the floor for balance. Keep moving forward, and backward adjusting the tension on the feet by putting more, or less weight on the heels. You can pause in certain positions to focus on specific parts of the heel, and Achilles tendon to target painful areas.
The Achilles tendon is a very common place to feel pain, and it is also one of the most common places to sustain an injury. As the largest tendon in your body, it is technically part of your calf muscle, however, the Achilles tendon is often neglected in fitness, and stretching regimens. If you notice any type of discomfort in the area where this springy band of tissue is (the back of your ankle, directly above the heel bone), try these 5 stretches, as discussed above, to alleviate the pain.
If you still feel the pain, it could be a sign of something more serious like the beginning stages of Achilles tendinitis – a common contributor to the aches and pains associated with feet, ankles, and even the calves. If these pain-relieving stretches don’t work for you, talk to your doctor about a more effective long-term approach to managing your pain.
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