Stretching The Calves Before Activity
The first step to maximizing many exercise routines is often stretching your muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons. This is particularly the case when discussing the important Achilles tendon and its accompanying muscles, the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The following is a brief article providing suggestions about beneficial maneuvers designed to prepare the tendons for physical activity, as well as the potential hazards associated with skipping this important regimen.
The posterior calf muscles are made up to two heads of the gastrocnemius muscle and the deeper soleus muscle. The three muscle bellies converge to form the Achilles tendon, which inserts on the heel bone. This essentially connects the calf to the foot. Therefore, it bears a great deal of weight, is critical to an individual’s mobility, and should be readied for physical activity prior to engaging in any kind of exercise.
Physicians recommend not extending the Achilles excessively. Many believe the best Achilles-stimulating stretch to be the “wall stretch.” To perform this exercise, an individual places his or her feet together with hands on a wall or large, sturdy object that can support your weight. The next step involves placing one leg back with the heel flat on the ground, while bending the front leg. The wall stretch is completed by keeping one hand on the wall to maintain balance while slowly stretching the calf muscles of the back leg. You should feel a slight pulling in the calf while performing this maneuver, but should never continue through a painful sensation, particularly down at the heel.
Failing to properly prepare your calves for exercise could result in several different injuries, ranging from minor to potentially quite serious. These include:
Should one’s Achilles stiffen, it could result in pain and a feeling of tightness in the calf or heel area. This problem can typically be overcome fairly quickly by executing the wall stretch.
Failing to stretch the Achilles could contribute to the development of tendonitis, which is an inflammation of the tendon. This condition can result in moderate to, at times, severe pain and, in more severe instances, could greatly limit the sufferer’s mobility and require several weeks recovery time.
Chronically stiff Achilles and calf muscles can result in micro-tearing at the insertion of the tendon on the heel bone. Over time, these micro tears result in the formation of bony spurs which can make closed back shoe wear very painful or impossible. Since the spurs do not resorb and can only be removed with surgery, it is best to prevent them from forming in the first place. The best way to prevent the spurs from developing is by keeping your calves limber and stretching so that the micro tears don’t occur.
Achilles Tendon Rupture
This most serious injury to the Achilles occurs when the tendon is torn. Although not usually very painful, an Achilles rupture is an acute affliction that will result in significant mobility issues, limping, and weakness during walking, running, and hiking. In many instances, the rupture will need to be surgically repaired and might require a course of physical therapy to rebuild the tendon’s strength following several months of healing and recovery time.