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How to Stretch the Calf Muscles

Why Stretch the calf muscles

The main muscle of the calf, the gastrocnemius, crosses the knee joint (behind the knee) and the ankle joint via the Achilles tendon. Two very strong calf muscles blend to make the Achilles tendon. Via the Achilles tendon these two muscles attach to the heel bone, so they will affect how the heel reacts with the floor during walking and running. Tight calf muscles can affect knee function as well as foot and ankle function, contributing to Achilles tendonitis and also plantar fasciitis – which is pain in the heel and/ or sole of the foot (see here for more on plantar fascia).

How to Stretch

calf muscle stretching using a stepcalf muscle stretch on a step view from behind

  • Stand with the ball of the stretching foot at the edge of a step
  • Place one or both hands on the banister or against the wall.
  • Allow the heel to drop until you feel a comfortable stretch in the calf. Keep the heel in line with the toes (i.e. the foot is perpendicular to the step).
  • For support place the other foot flat on the same step with a slightly bent knee.
  • Hold stretch for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat with other leg.

 

It is very important to use the other leg as well as your hands to have complete control of your balance and the amount of weight on the stretching leg.    

For best results, keep your foot pointing straight ahead.                              Don’t let heel turn inward.

proper foot alignment for stretching the calf muscles                                                                                improper foot alignment

Alternate Stretch

calf muscle stretch using chair -view from side

  • Stand facing a wall, chair or any vertical surface that is at least as high as your waist.
  • Place one foot in front of the other.
  • The front, support, leg should be flexed at the knee.
  • The knee of the back, stretching, leg should be fully extended.
  • Proper alignment of the back foot is to keep the heel in line with the toes perpendicular to the wall or chair. – See picture below.
  • While maintaining an erect posture gently move the hips foreword – all the while supporting yourself on the wall or other chosen surface.
  • The heel, of the stretching limb, must stay in contact with the floor.

 

For best results, keep your foot pointing straight ahead.                      Don’t let heel turn inward.

proper foot alignment                                                                      improper foot alignment

 

For both calf muscle stretches discussed in this article, your weight should be mainly on your back leg, and you should feel the stretch somewhere between the back of the knee and the back of the ankle. As with every stretch, there should be no pain. Position yourself to only feel a mild stretching sensation.

Disclaimer
Suggestions made in this publication are no substitute for medical advice. If you have any pain or difficulty performing the described stretches, seek advice from your appropriate health professional.

About the Author
Domenic Lopez B.Sc., Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist and Licensed Massage Therapist, is owner and operator of Healthy Moves, a private practice where massage therapy and movement education help you achieve better living.

Heel Pain and Plantar Fascia Ailments: What you Can do at Home

Reduce heel pain by massaging and stretching the foot.

stretching toes and foot

Heel pain and/or plantar fasciitis are common foot ailments. They are sometimes one and the same problem, though heel pain can come from various other causes. The plantar fascia is a fibrous band of tissue that attaches from the underside of the heel to the ball of the foot. It helps support the arch of the foot and helps absorb the shock of forces transmitted from the ground to the leg. The plantar side (under side) of the foot also contains toe flexors and other foot muscles. Trigger points or knots in these muscles and inflammation of the plantar fascia can contribute to heel or plantar foot pain. Massaging and stretching these body tissues can be helpful in restoring pain-free function.

How to Stretch the plantar fascia.

stretching the plantar fascia for heel pain

  • Sit on a chair.
  • Rest your right ankle on left thigh.
  • Reach for your toes with right hand.
  • With palm on underside of toes, pull up on toes to stretch the toe flexors and fascia under foot
  • Hold stretch for 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Repeat for other side

An additional stretch that is often helpful in cases of heel pain is that of stretching the calf muscles. This is because the achilles tendon-the tendon of the calf muscles- attaches to the heel and affects the mechanics of the heel. See here for instructions on calf muscle stretching.

Massage and Myofascial release for heel pain.

The following exercise is good to do prior to or instead of the plantar fascia and toe flexor stretch.

Using ball to massage foot

Sit in a chair. Place your bare foot on a tennis ball and roll the ball from the heel to the toes and back again to the heel. Repeat for two to three minutes. Cover the entire sole of the foot by moving the ball a little to the side with each pass. Roll the ball slowly with firm but comfortable pressure. It can be a little tender but don’t cause intense pain,  as this may be counterproductive.

Using ball to massage foot

To release myofascial trigger points, you can linger on the tender spots to wait for a release or softening of the tender points. Stop on a tender point and breathe slow and deep while applying constant pressure. If the discomfort subsides you can press a little more, then wait for another release. It may take up to 90 seconds or more for a softening or decrease in tenderness to occur. Move on to the next most tender point. Release as many points as you wish in the same manner.

Be patient. Work on this daily for a few minutes. Start with mild to moderate pressure. In time you will tolerate firmer pressure. You may progress to using firmer and or smaller balls to achieve deeper or more concentrated releases.

 

Disclaimer
Suggestions made in this publication are no substitute for medical advice. If you have any pain or difficulty performing the described stretches, seek advice from your appropriate health professional.
About the Author
Domenic Lopez B.Sc., Certified Exercise Physiologist and Licensed Massage Therapist, is owner and operator of Healthy Moves, a private practice where massage therapy and movement education help you achieve better living.

Immune Boosting effects of Exercise

Regular exercise helps regulate the immune system.

How does exercise help enhance your immune response?

In a nutshell: Physical activity increases blood flow, which has the immediate effect of releasing and distributing immune cells throughout the body. This, of course, is a simplistic answer. The full scope of mechanisms involved in improving your immune protection are much more complex. For avid exercisers, it is important to note that fatigue from over exertion is detrimental to your immune system function. It is therefore key to balance rest and recuperation with physical activity. However, most Americans are not moving enough. Read below for more important reasons to stay physically active.

Studies have shown the following benefits:

read more…

Neck Muscles need regular stretching.

Maintaining flexible neck muscles may delay the onset of arthritic discomforts and reduce some causes of pinched nerves and headaches.

 

The trapezius and levator scapulae are important neck muscles that connect your head and neck
to your shoulder blades. They are responsible for shrugging the shoulders, as well as tilting and rotating your head. This short article discusses why and how to stretch these shoulder and neck muscles to reduce pain and discomfort in the head, neck, and shoulder areas.

Ever notice when your stressed:

1- How your shoulders seem to lift towards your ears?

2- How tense you get in the area between the ear and the top of the shoulder? i.e. That knot you get on the top of your shoulders.

The following two moves will help reduce the buildup of tension in these muscles. You should understand that maintaining flexible neck muscles may delay the onset of arthritic discomforts and reduce some causes of pinched nerves and headaches. read more…

NEW COVID-19 Precautions

 COVID-19 safety measures for Massage Therapy 

at Healthy Moves

 

 

Thank you for visiting Healthy Moves. In the interest of protecting you, myself and everyone coming through my work space, I have implemented the following procedures. Please read through these procedures and feel free to comment or ask questions regarding any concerns. Thank you. read more…

Belly Breathing for Stress Reduction and Vibrant Health.

vibrant health with proper breathing

Re-establishing a normal breathing pattern, with proper diaphragm activity, is vital to your health for the following reasons:

  1. It provides proper oxygen delivery to your body.
  2. It allows you to use your lungs to their fullest extent.
  3. The wave-like motion imparted by the diaphragm massages and mobilizes your thoracic and abdominal organs, helping to optimize their function!
  4. It helps circulation to and from your heart.
  5. It assists circulation of lymph, a key component of your immune system.
  6. Bringing awareness to diaphragmatic breathing is a useful stress reduction tool, which can help reduce headaches, anxiety and chronic pain read more…

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