The tendon that runs down the back of your lower leg to your heel is your Achilles tendon. You use your Achilles tendon every time your walk, run, play sports or otherwise move your legs and feet. Overuse or pushing your tight calf muscles too hard can cause injury to the tendon, bringing with it pain and swelling. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends physical therapy soon after Achilles tendon injuries to promote healing.
The Achilles tendon connects your calf to your heel; strengthening the soleus muscles in the calf can also be beneficial to creating a stronger tendon. Calf raises do both jobs and can be performed in a variety of ways. The basic calf raise means you stretch your calf by supporting your body weight on your toes--stand near a wall or a staircase bannister to provide some support if needed. An alternate form of calf raise, which puts less stress on your calves than the standing version, is a sitting calf raise. Sit with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Raise your heels until you are up on your toes. Once you have mastered sitting or standing calf raises, try walking on your toes to strengthen your Achilles tendon.
Squats condition many different muscle groups, including your calves. This modified squat uses a wall as support. Stand facing the fall, with your toes about 2 to 3 inches away from the wall. Bend from your knees as far as you can go, until your kneecaps touch the wall. If you're too close to the wall to bend, move back a little bit. Try not to push against the wall with your hands, but you can touch your fingertips to the wall or floor for balance if needed. Hold each squat for a count of three before straightening again.
Resistance Band Exercises
Resistance band exercises are easy on your body and can be performed sitting down. All Achilles tendon-strengthening stretches should be done only when you are not experiencing pain or inflammation, according to the Sports Injury Clinic. Your doctor or physical therapist will determine the appropriate level of resistance for you.
Wrap a resistance band around the ball of your foot so that there is a band across the top of your foot with plenty of band left for you to hold, one side in each hand. Sit on a table or bed with your leg straight in front of you, knee slightly bent. Hold the band taut and flex your foot so your toes point to the ceiling and then out in front of you. Perform 10 repetitions per set, and work up to two sets daily.
The rocking stretch imitates the movement of walking or running and can strengthen your tendon without putting all of the pressure of pounding on a sidewalk on your body. The Sports Injury Bulletin recommends doing this exercise near a wall to lend some support.
Stand on both feet, but place most of your body's weight on the affected leg. Bend the knee slightly as if you were walking or jogging. Lift up the other leg, knee also bent in a running position. Place your palms on the wall for support and rock your body back and forth while keeping your back straight. You should feel a pull, but no pain, in your calf and Achilles tendon.