Achilles tendonitis occurs when the Achilles tendon becomes inflamed, resulting in pain that can cause difficulty running, walking and performing other activities that put pressure on the feet. Tendonitis is usually caused by repetitive stress placed on a tendon with inadequate strength and support. Doing stretching and strengthening exercises for your Achilles tendon and the surrounding muscles help reduce the impact of tendonitis.
Wall Calf Stretch
Regularly stretching the calf muscle and the Achilles tendon will increase muscle and tendon flexibility, and decrease the chance of hyper extension. The wall calf stretch is a standard calf stretch used by athletes that may benefit those with Achilles tendonitis. To begin, face a wall or another other sturdy, flat surface. Stand so that there are three to four feet between your feet and the wall. Lean forward and place both palms on the wall. Next, step forward with one leg so that the foot is 6 inches or so from the wall, but keep the other leg back with the foot pointing toward the wall. This step will cause the back leg to bend at the ankle, forcing the calf and Achilles tendon to stretch. Bend the knee of the back leg slightly to increase the depth of the stretch and switch the focus of the stretch from the calf muscle to the Achilles tendon. Hold for 15 seconds, then return to your original position and switch feet. It is a good idea to stretch both tendons, even if you only have tendonitis in one of them--this will help prevent tendonitis in your healthy tendon.
The calf raise is an exercise aimed at strengthening the large calf muscle, which will also strengthen the Achilles tendon and provide support to your calf and ankle. To begin, stand on a hard, flat surface, with your feet a comfortable distance apart. Next, simply raise yourself up onto the balls of your feet, using the strength of your calf muscles to lift the heel from the floor. Don't try to stand up too high on the balls of your feet, or go up on your toes, as this may strain your feet. To end the exercise, gently lower your heels back down to the floor. It may take 50 or more calf raises before you feel the muscles begin to fatigue. If you find that this exercise is too easy, try adding resistance by holding dumbbells in your hands. You can also stand on one foot for a much more difficult work out.
While the wall calf stretch can increase flexibility in your Achilles tendon, a wall or sturdy surface is not always available when you work out. Another way to stretch the Achilles is to use a towel or another flexible object. Sit down and extend the leg you want to stretch straight out in front of you. Extend your other leg, or keep it bent. Take your towel and loop it around the ball of your foot, grabbing both ends of the towel with one of your hands. Pull back on the towel gently, causing your ankle joint to bend. Hold the towel at a constant level of moderate tension resistance for 15 seconds to get a deep stretch in your Achilles tendon, then switch legs.