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New Achillies Stretch

Posted by Leon S. on 8/31/02 at 08:36 (094059)

Julie,

As the stretching maven (or mavenette as the case may be) , I would like your considered opinion on a stretch that I discovered while doing some sit up crunches with my legs straight up against a wall at a right angle to my body. While doing the sit ups, I noticed that by keeping my feet perpendicular to the wall and the backs of my heels and calves touching the wall, I was getting a good stretch of the achillies tendon. This whole business made me recall some symptoms I felt before the onset of the PF. There were many times when I awoke in the morning and went downstairs, I had a stiffness and discomfort in the achillies tendon and in the ankle area. It cleared up fairly quickly and never got worse. Because it didn't bother me after the initial morning discomfort I did my usual walking and running patterns. Only after the heel pain began did I recognize that I had a problem.

Re: Lovely!

Julie on 8/31/02 at 12:27 (094071)

Leon

This sounds excellent.

The stretch you describe is essentially the same stretch as you'd get
sitting or lying on the floor with your legs outstretched and your feet dorsiflexed. But it's better, actually, since gravity is assisting the dorsiflexion (as well as the venous return of blood to the heart). And you're more inclined to hold the stretch for longer, as you're doing it in such a comfortable position. So, yes, definitely a good stretch for the achilles tendon and the calf muscles. I think lots of people here will be helped by your serendipitous discovery.

From now on I'd do the crunches first, and then just lie with your legs up the wall and your feet dorsiflexed. Focus on one thing at a time.

For anyone who wants to try this and isn't used to lying with their legs up the wall, the easiest way to get into that position is to lie next to to the wall, side on to it. Swing your legs up the wall and wriggle your torso around till its perpendicular to it.

The point of stretching to help heal PF is to lengthen the gastrocnemius/
soleus/achilles complex and thus increase the ability of the foot to
dorsiflex. The assumption is that the shortness/tightness of this complex
has caused the plantar fasciitis by causing early heel lift, which stresses the fascia. The problem is to find ways of stretching that don't further stress it. As you know, I think most weightbearing stretches do. Your discovery is a valuable addition to the 'safe and effective' canon.

A shortened/tightened gastroc/soleus/achilles complex isn't always at the
root of PF, but it very often is - especially with runners who may not be
stretching sufficiently before and after running. Could this have been your scenario? I wonder, because you say you noticed achilles/ankle discomfort prior to PF. All impact exercise shortens muscles, and I suspect that this shortening, as much as or even more than the repeated impact on the heels, may be the PF-culprit with many runners.

I love legs-up-the-wall stretches because they're so good for the circulation. Here's a variation for you. Take your legs as wide apart as is comfortable, and rest in that position with your feet dorsiflexed. This will stretch your inner thigh muscles as well as the calves and achilles. Don't 'do' anything, just breathe and observe your breath, and release tension on each out breath.

Another: from the legs-together position, bend your knees and bring your
heels close to your buttocks. (Don't do this from the legs-apart position:
it's not good for the knees.) Then take your knees out to the sides and
bring the soles of your feet together. This works nicely into the hip
joints and groin as well as the inner thighs.

That's a little yoga lesson to thank you for sharing your discovery! I'm sure others will benefit from it.

Julie

Re: Lovely!

Julie on 8/31/02 at 12:27 (094071)

Leon

This sounds excellent.

The stretch you describe is essentially the same stretch as you'd get
sitting or lying on the floor with your legs outstretched and your feet dorsiflexed. But it's better, actually, since gravity is assisting the dorsiflexion (as well as the venous return of blood to the heart). And you're more inclined to hold the stretch for longer, as you're doing it in such a comfortable position. So, yes, definitely a good stretch for the achilles tendon and the calf muscles. I think lots of people here will be helped by your serendipitous discovery.

From now on I'd do the crunches first, and then just lie with your legs up the wall and your feet dorsiflexed. Focus on one thing at a time.

For anyone who wants to try this and isn't used to lying with their legs up the wall, the easiest way to get into that position is to lie next to to the wall, side on to it. Swing your legs up the wall and wriggle your torso around till its perpendicular to it.

The point of stretching to help heal PF is to lengthen the gastrocnemius/
soleus/achilles complex and thus increase the ability of the foot to
dorsiflex. The assumption is that the shortness/tightness of this complex
has caused the plantar fasciitis by causing early heel lift, which stresses the fascia. The problem is to find ways of stretching that don't further stress it. As you know, I think most weightbearing stretches do. Your discovery is a valuable addition to the 'safe and effective' canon.

A shortened/tightened gastroc/soleus/achilles complex isn't always at the
root of PF, but it very often is - especially with runners who may not be
stretching sufficiently before and after running. Could this have been your scenario? I wonder, because you say you noticed achilles/ankle discomfort prior to PF. All impact exercise shortens muscles, and I suspect that this shortening, as much as or even more than the repeated impact on the heels, may be the PF-culprit with many runners.

I love legs-up-the-wall stretches because they're so good for the circulation. Here's a variation for you. Take your legs as wide apart as is comfortable, and rest in that position with your feet dorsiflexed. This will stretch your inner thigh muscles as well as the calves and achilles. Don't 'do' anything, just breathe and observe your breath, and release tension on each out breath.

Another: from the legs-together position, bend your knees and bring your
heels close to your buttocks. (Don't do this from the legs-apart position:
it's not good for the knees.) Then take your knees out to the sides and
bring the soles of your feet together. This works nicely into the hip
joints and groin as well as the inner thighs.

That's a little yoga lesson to thank you for sharing your discovery! I'm sure others will benefit from it.

Julie