Information about exercise for Achilles tendonitis
Engaging in safe and appropriate exercise for Achilles tendonitis can be beneficial for your rehabilitation and preventing the condition from reoccurring. Stretching and strengthening the Achilles tendon and its associated muscles are integral parts of most treatment programs for Achilles tendonitis.
Achilles tendonitis, or the inflammation of the Achilles tendon is caused by overuse or excessive stress placed upon the tendon, through repetitive strain or when it is stretched beyond its capability. Pain in the location of the Achilles tendon, feeling tightness, weakness and reduced range of motion in the ankle and foot are all common symptoms of the condition. Achilles tendonitis should not be ignored and treatment should be sought promptly, as if it is not dealt with quickly, micro-tearing of the tendon and in chronic cases, degeneration of the tendon (Achilles tendinopathy) can eventuate. Engaging in appropriate exercise for Achilles tendonitis, under the supervision of your sports podiatrist can help you improve your mobility and recover faster.
Appropriate exercise for Achilles tendonitis
The following are some examples of exercises for Achilles tendonitis that your sports podiatrist may suggest you try under their supervision, or at least initially. During your consultations, you will be shown the exercises for Achilles tendonitis that you should begin with, and their progressions as you become more capable. It is always best to check with your sports podiatrist as to which type of exercise for Achilles tendonitis you should be engaging in for your condition, as performing exercises incorrectly may cause injury to the tendon. You should always aim to start off the exercise slowly and stop if you start to experience any pain. Never bounce when stretching.
This exercise for Achilles tendonitis places gentle stress on the big toe to flex backwards (dorsiflexion), stretching the Achilles tendon and the calf muscles.
Sit in a chair and extend your sore leg out so that your heel is on the floor. Reach down and using your hand, move the big toe up and back gently. You should be pulling the toe toward your ankle, away from the floor. Hold the stretch for between 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times.
Floor stretch (runner’s stretch, calf stretch):
This exercise for Achilles tendonitis provides relief from inflammation by stretching and gently loosening the tendon.
Place your hands on a wall at about shoulder height. Take a step back so that you are around half a metre away from the wall. Using the leg that you want to stretch, take a step back again, keeping the leg straight. Plant your heel to the floor and turn your toes in slightly. Bend the other leg a little as you lean forwards. You should feel the stretch down your calf muscle in the back of the lower leg. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, repeating 2 to 4 times. If it hurts to keep the leg straight, you can begin by starting off a little bit closer.
Calf-plantar fascia stretch (seated towel stretch):
This exercise for Achilles tendonitis places mechanical (external) stress on the toes to flex backwards (dorsiflexion), stretching the Achilles tendon and the calf muscles.
Sit on the floor with your legs extended out and your knees straight. Fold up a towel long ways. Put the towel around your affected foot at around the height of the toes. Hold one end of the towel in each hand. Your hands should be just above your knees. Use the towel to pull your foot back gently so that your foot stretches towards you, gently stretching the structures of the lower leg and foot. Hold this stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat 2 to 4 times. If you find that one calf is tighter than the other, or the injury to one leg makes it difficult to stretch both legs properly at once, you can stretch one foot at a time by looping the towel around one foot only.
Stair/step stretch (bilateral heel drop):
This exercise for Achilles tendonitis stretches the calf muscles, which in turn allow the Achilles tendon to stretch.
Stand with both feet on the edge of a stair or step. You should hold onto a hand rail or something else solid for balance. Keep the affected leg straight. Slowly and in a controlled manner, allow the heel to hang down off the step, until you feel a slight stretch in the calf and Achilles tendon. Your other leg should still be bearing some of your bodyweight. Hold this stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat 2 to 4 times. You can also do this stretch with a slightly bent knee if you need to.
This exercise for Achilles tendonitis will help you to rebuild strength following your tendon injury. This exercise causes the calf muscles (the gastrocnemius and soleus) to contract as they lengthen, strengthening the muscles and the Achilles tendon. Your sports podiatrist will direct you to more advanced and challenging exercises as you become stronger.
Stand on the edge of a stair or step with your heel off the edge, holding on to a hand rail or something else for balance. Slowly and in a controlled manner, push up on to your toes and then count to 10 as you slowly lower your heel back down and allow it to drop down past the step. Initially, if you experience pain when you push up onto your toes, you can try putting most of your weight on the non-injured leg as you push up. If you are unable to do this exercise without experiencing pain, stop immediately and speak with your sports podiatrist.
Is exercise for Achilles tendonitis safe?
Your sports podiatrist should always be your first point of contact in discussing which type of exercise for Achilles tendonitis is safe for your individual circumstances. They will be able to make sound recommendations for you, in order to make sure that you are not causing any further damage.
The information regarding exercise for Achilles tendonitis published in the above article is intended for educational purposes only and should not be taken as general advice. You should always consult with a suitably qualified sports podiatrist before commencing any exercise whilst injured or during rehabilitation from injury. You can make an appointment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 82110600.
Karl Lockett– sports podiatrist.