age, all of your ligaments and tendons become more susceptible to
injury. This is just a fact of life. Once you stop growing, you start
degenerating; all you can control is the rate at which you degenerate.
the most powerful ways to slow down the rate at which you experience
degeneration is to regularly stretch your muscles and tendons. Stretching
these tissues helps prevent scar tissue buildup and promotes healthy
exchange of nutrients and waste products via steady blood circulation.
is especially true of your weight-bearing muscles and tendons, tissues
that you use during most of your waking hours.
Achilles tendon is the rope-like tendon that attaches your calf muscles
to your heel bone. Whenever you move on your feet, your Achilles tendons
are under constant load. In fact, even when you are standing still,
your Achilles tendon needs to be taut to prevent you from toppling
should come as no surprise that Achilles tendonitis and overt tears
of the Achilles tendon are common injuries among active and inactive
people over 50 years of age.
feel that risk of Achilles tendonitis and partial or complete tears
can be minimized through a regular program of stretching and deep
above, your Achilles tendon serves to attach your calf muscles to
your heel bone. Your calf muscles consist of two major muscle bellies:
higher up, you have your gastrocnemius, and lower down, you have a
dense, flatter muscle called your soleus. Your gastrocnemius and soleus
join together to form your Achilles tendon.
your gastrocnemius and soleus, more towards the outer half of the
back of your lower leg, you have three more muscles called your flexor
hallucis longus, flexor digitorum longus, and tibialis posterior.
These secondary calf muscles don't join your Achilles tendon, but
these muscles function hand in hand with your gastrocnemius and soleus
these muscles are tight from overuse and lack of regular stretching,
your Achilles tendon experiences constant, unnecessary pull, which
predisposes it to inflammation and increased risk of tearing.
you're looking to treat existing Achilles tendonitis or simply to
prevent it, you stand to benefit a great deal from stretching and
doing pressure work to this area daily. Working on your soleus in
particular is a highly effective way of keeping your Achilles tendon
your gastrocnemius (your upper calf region), stand near a wall, stabilize
your upper body by pressing your hands against the wall, maintain
balance of your lower extremities by keeping one leg up in front of
you with your knee bent, and keeping your target leg back behind you,
knee straight, and with your heel on the ground.
a picture of what this looks like:
your lower back and abdominal region strong and upright, and work
to keep your back knee straight and your heel pressed into the ground.
You should feel a nice stretch through your upper calf region and
possibly even your Achilles tendon.
your soleus muscle, maintain this same position, but add a slight
bend of your back knee while keeping your back heel on the ground
or close to it. Bending your back knee just a smidge should transfer
the stretch you feel from your upper calf to your lower calf.
all stretches, strive to remember two principles:
for 30 seconds at a time or as long as is comfortable, then switch
to the other side of your body.
steady breathing as you hold your stretches.
pressure work to this area can further promote healthy muscles and
tendons via healthy blood circulation and optimal exchange of fluids
can be as simple as feeling for and kneading out tender areas as you're
sitting comfortably, or a purposeful program of applying controlled
pressure to the entire posterior leg compartment with a hand-held
roller, as shown below:
rolling, you can shift the angle of your roller to hit inner and outer
portions of the muscle bellies that you're working on.
don't have a hand-held roller to do this type of soft tissue stripping,
a rolling pin from your kitchen should work just fine. The hand-held
roller that I like to use can be found here:
want to takes things even further, you can have a family member, friend,
or a health practitioner work on all of the muscles that surround
your Achilles tendon. The advantage to having someone do this work
on you is that you can fully relax, enabling fuller access to your
muscles, fascia, and even nerves and blood vessels in the area. Also,
an experienced practitioner can apply pressure while moving your ankle
joint in a way that lengthens and shortens the target tissues, which
further enhances the effectiveness of the pressure work.
a brief video clip that shows how I like to lengthen muscles of the
posterior leg compartment when looking to treat or prevent Achilles
if you don't have problems with your Achilles tendons, I encourage
you to give some of these tips a try. They don't cost a thing but
your time and some energy, and I strongly feel that such stretches
and pressure work can go a long way towards keeping your legs and
ankles healthy at any age. I don't walk all of my talk 24/7, but my
wife Margaret will confirm that I do this work on myself daily. Call
me a huge believer in this facet of wellness care.
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