The Achilles is one of the largest & strongest tendons in the body. For those needing an anatomy recap it’s that rather large tendon that attaches your calf muscle to your heel bone.
Achilles problems are the result of overuse typically from activities such as running, walking or jumping. We tend to see a lot of Achilles related problems in middle aged (40-60 year old) runners.
Achilles tendinitis is an inflammation of the Achilles tendon. Symptoms often include pain and tenderness and sometimes redness and swelling in the region. Morning stiffness that resides as you warm up is common. Initially you may be able to exercise through slight discomfort however as this injury progresses pain can be so debilitating that you may not be able to train.
What can you do? There are steps you can take to prevent issues arising in the Achilles, and trust me 5-10 minutes a day of ‘prehab’ is a lot easier than the recovery process you could potentially face!
- Footwear: always ensure your footwear is up to date. The km’s triathletes and long distance runners clock each week means you should be replacing your running shoes every 3-4 months.
- Stretch & foam roller your calves for 5 minutes daily.
- Calf strengthening: often the forgotten muscle group in the gym. Specific calf strengthening entails calf raises off the edge of a step with a focus on the lowering phase. Rise onto your toes at normal speed and take 3-4 seconds to lower.
- 3 sets of 10 daily on each leg would be ample.
- Warm up prior to all training sessions.
- Train smart. Increase the frequency and intensity of your training gradually.
Tendon injuries in general can be problematic to treat, especially if you have had the injury for a while. In many cases, given the nature of it as an overuse injury, there may be wear and tear within the tendon which results in small micro tears and fraying in the tendon fibres. These ‘degenerative’ changes coupled with inflammation create a difficult scenario when it comes to treatment.
If you begin to feel tightness or pain in the Achilles I would strongly advise seeking treatment ASAP. The sooner you get onto managing a problem such as Achilles tendonitis the quicker your recovery and the faster your return to running!
Her expertise focus around sports and musculoskeletal injuries and is involved with the injury management of various sporting clubs and teams within the Sydney area.
Em has completed post graduate training in Western Acupuncture / Dry Needling, Active Release Technique (ART) and also has her personal training qualification.