This is a very common condition for people of all activity levels, but especially those who are active through running, walking, or sports. The Achilles Tendon is the largest tendon in the lower leg and is the end of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles in the calf as they insert onto the heel bone. The calf muscles, when they contract, cause the toes to point (like a ballerina). Their most important job is to propel the body forward when walking or running or propel it upward for jumping. Unfortunately, if the tendon is weakened, then repeated contraction of the calf muscles through these activities will cause pain. The pain can be anywhere in the calf, but is most commonly in the calf musculature itself or in the tendon down toward the heel. The pain can be a burning-type or a soreness or even feel like a cramp is going to happen (or has happened) in the calf.
Most people think they need to stretch the tendon to relieve the pain, but stretching can actually cause more pain. Instead, follow this exercise progression to strengthen the tendon.
- Heavy Eccentric
*Don’t move onto the next progression until you are comfortable with the previous step. If you feel pain at any point, go back to step 1.
This condition is best treated using instrumented assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) or even dry needling and low level laser therapy to restore blood flow to the tendon and with rehabilitative exercises to improve the strength of the calf, leg, and hip musculature. Most importantly, the tendon needs to be strengthened with a type of exercise known as a low load eccentric as it really strengthens the tendon and helps it to heal. In addition, kinesiology taping commonly helps to assist the tendon in performing its job with less pain.
Occasionally, the Achilles does become acutely injured which will cause it to become inflamed. This inflammation of the tendon, termed tendinitis, needs to be treated differently by rest, modification of activity that causes pain, ice and other treatments like Biofreeze, and anti-inflammatory settings during the low level laser treatment. Only a proper examination from a doctor like those at Kaizo Health can determine which treatment is necessary for your condition.