Heel pain when stretching a calf muscle can be a sign of many different ailments. Tendinitis, bone spurs, plantar fasciitis and stress fractures are just a few causes of heel pain.
The heel is a structure that includes bones, muscles, tendons and fascia. All of these structures must work together properly to avoid pain and injury.
Treatment for heel pain often includes resting the heel, icing the injured area, stretching and strengthening within a pain-free range, and using orthotics or foot supports.
Read more: A Sore Heel After Running
Understanding Achilles Tendinitis
Achilles tendinitis is inflammation of the Achilles tendon at the bottom of your calf muscles, according to the Mayo Clinic. This tendon connects the bone of the heel to the muscles of the calf. The tendon is commonly inflamed by overuse during sports or running.
The result can be mild to severe pain, as well as tenderness and swelling. The tendon may be aggravated by flat arches and trauma. If untreated or injured further, the Achilles tendon may tear or rupture completely.
The pain may increase during stretching because of the inflammation of the tissues. Some discomfort during stretching is normal. However, if you have a tearing feeling in your heel when stretching, stop immediately. Never stretch to the point of pain.
Beware of Bone Spurs
Bone spurs usually build where the ligament and tendon meet the bone. Bone tissue is deposited here because the body feels excessive stress along the ligament or tendon. Pain results when this bony buildup rubs against surrounding tissues.
When stretching, the pain may increase due to the bone spur stressing the tissues of the heel. It can cause sharp, burning pain and a loss of motion, which are associated with plantar fasciitis.
Avoiding Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot, from the toes to the heel, as explained by the Cleveland Clinic. It usually causes sharp, stabbing heel pain in the morning or after a long period of rest or standing.
This often affects people who are overweight, pregnant or have inadequate shoe support. Plantar fasciitis is also an inflammatory process and may be aggravated by stretching the heel where the plantar fascia attaches.
Read more: How to Stop Foot Pain With 7 Easy Exercises
Identify Stress Fractures
Stress fractures are tiny cracks in bone tissue. They commonly result from repetitive injury or overuse injury. The lower extremity, including the heel, can be affected because the weight-bearing joints are susceptible to this type of injury.
Stress fractures may occur from overuse where tissue attaches to bone because of the pull of the soft tissue on the bone, as explained by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Stretching may aggravate the pain as the two ends of the stress fracture rub against each other. This pain can be sharp and burning.
Seek Medical Attention
To accurately identify the underlying cause of heel pain when stretching a calf muscle, seek medical attention. Pain in the foot could be coming from somewhere else, including your lower back.
According to the American Association of Neuromuscular & Electrodiagnostic Medicine, nerves that exit the spine can become compressed, leading to a condition called lumbar radiculopathy. In addition to pain, this disease can cause numbness, tingling and weakness in the leg.