Stretching exercises for the treatment of retrocalcaneal or achilles bursitis.
The calf muscles consist of the larger gastrocnemius muscle and the lower soleus muscle. If these muscles are more flexible then they will put less train on the bursa at the back of the heel. Stretching should only be done if it can be done pain free.
The guidelines below are for information purposes only. We recommend seeking professional advice before attempting any rehabilitation. If gentle pressure is applied to the foot, and angle of 90 degrees should be possible without needing to force it. The Soleus muscle is tested in the same way but with the knee bent. By bending the knee, the larger gastrocnemius muscle is shortened, leaving the soleus which attaches below the knee to be stretched. It is rare that the soleus muscle will be tight, however tight gastrocnemius muscles are more common.
To stretch the big gastrocnemius muscle the back leg must be kept straight. Stand with the leg to be stretched at the back and hands on a wall at shoulder height. Bend the front knee and lean forwards, keeping the back knee straight and pushing the heel down into the floor.
When you can feel a stretch, hold for 20 seconds. If the stretch eases, lean further forwards until you can feel it again. But do not push too far in the early stages. Perform 3 repetitions and repeat this 3-5 times a day.
Play Gastrocnemius stretch video.
Soleus muscle stretch
To stretch the deeper soleus muscle the knee of the leg to be stretched needs to be bent. This is because the soleus muscle attaches below the knee and bending the knee allows the gastrocnemius muscle to relax leaving the soleus on stretch.
Lean against a wall with the leg to be stretched at the back. Bend the knee keeping the heel in contact with the ground until a stretch is felt. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds and repeat three times. If a stretch is not felt then another method is to place the ball of foot against the wall and bend the front knee until a stretch is felt.
Play Soleus muscle stretch video.
Stretching on a step
As flexibility increases or if you have particularly flexible calf muscles it may be better to stretch using a step. Lower the heel off the step dropping down until a stretch is felt.
Hold for 15 to 20 seconds for 3 repetitions and repeat 3 to 5 times a day. The soleus muscle can be stretched similarly but with the knee of the leg to be stretched kept bent.
Play Stretching on a step video.