Achilles Pain: Three to do’s, one not to do.
Let’s talk about nagging chronic injuries like achilles pain.
As a lifelong Exercise Physiologist/Trainer/Coach/”whatever you wanna call me” I have helped athletes and recreational athletes alike get over common ailments with basic regimens that are universally prescribed.
Often, after they go through physical therapy and they are ready to move on and often as a preventative measure for athletes in redundant sports, like running.
In any case, until I experience some of these nagging issues I can never feel 100% confident that the exercises are working. So, you must understand the joy I had after dealing with ITBS ( iliotibial band syndrome) for 4 months a few years ago and being able to kick it with what I was using to help others kick it for good. So now, in the spring before running the trails of Colorado will be a weekly occurrence, I have some achilles pain that I need to treat.
The main causes are increased load or volume, bio-mechanic (efficient movement) issues, tight calves and muscles of the lower leg. There are many other things like glute weakness, ankle mobility, and nutritional deficiencies but let’s deal with what we assume is the issue for this athlete (myself).
I get to guinea pig myself for my future clients and so far, it’s working with only three additions and one omission.
Three things I am doing to treat for now:
- Heel drops: From the top of a calf raise on a step or other raised surface (plantar flexion) slowly drop your heels as low as you can. This mimics and trains the eccentric contraction that may not be as efficient or powerful as needed to support the lower leg, ending in this pain in the achilles. 3 sets of 15-20 per day. It burns (muscle burn) a bit but feels really good. Excessive pain and you should stop, hopefully obviously.
- Manual massage and foam rolling the calves: Both of these serve to loosen the calf at the belly of the muscle. This will and should take some of the tension off the achilles. The foam rolling feels good but I think I am getting the most bang for my buck from manual massage. Yep, I’m massage my calves and lower legs for 10-15 minutes a day.
- Ice: Especially with obvious inflammation. Ice over drugs as many of the orals you take could eliminate blood flow to area, not good. I hate icing but it seems to be helping.
One thing I am dropping for at least a month:
- Basketball: The sport is still fun for me but I am noticing major inflammation from playing. I have hypothesized it is more from the shoes, they are digging into the achilles, than the movement but I want to back off to make sure.
- As long as it doesn’t get worse, I’ll keep running. When it worsens, I will back off and cross train. Usually a decent model if you treat everything to get better in theory the nagging issue should resolve. It’s worked with many of my clients and my past injuries. That blood flow is a huge benefit so keep moving. And, there are plenty of things to omit but basketball is mine for now.
- Get a legit diagnosis if this is new to you. These tips are for athletes that are somewhat experienced and typically won’t stop for anything anyway.
- A little rest now is better than a lot of forced rest later. Be smart and don’t turn it into something bigger.
- Lastly, as someone with my M.S. in exercise physiology, I always refer outside my scope. If I don’t know something for fact, it’s time for a real diagnosis from an ortho or PT. Some of my pals in the industry. Good coaches and trainers work with these pro’s, not in spite of them. Goes both ways.
What chronic issues have you had? What worked with your achilles pain? Let’s talk. For now, I need to go ice….damnit.
Scott Jones is the founder of Athlete On Fire and still trains a handful of clients one on one in his hometown in Colorado and virtually. Athlete On Fire was founded to inspire 1000’s every hour instead of just one every hour! Reach out, always. scott (at) athleteonfire (dot) com
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