The Achilles tendon is a strong, fibrous band that allows a person to walk, run and jump.
This tendon connects our calf muscle to our heel bone and can take loads of up to twelve times our body weight whilst running. So, it’s no wonder that inflammation of the Achilles tendon (tendinopathy) is a reasonably common complaint amongst sports-people.
The cause of Achilles tendon inflammation still remains unclear but it is thought to be a combination of factors, such as age, gender, weight, malalignement of the foot, excessive training, footwear and previous injury.
Along with rest, here are a few other management strategies for an Achilles problem:
Heel drop exercises
Performed in a single-leg standing position with bodyweight placed mainly in the forefoot region and heel hanging off the low step. Lift heel off step, and then lower heel just past the step height. Complete fifteen repetitions, three times on each leg , resting for one minute in between sets.
You can use your arms for assistance, but ensure majority of your weight is going through your feet. It is advised this regime be undertaken twice daily for twelve weeks. The exercise may be a little uncomfortable at the start of the program.
Place two hands on the wall, split legs with the top leg bent and the back leg straight. Ensure both heels are kept on the ground. Hold for 20-30 seconds and then repeat this on the other leg. Complete three sets on each leg, twice daily.
Massage of the calf and Achilles region is appropriate as it improves blood circulation which helps to aid in the healing and regeneration process.
Icing the tendon for five minutes, then five minutes off and then five minutes on again after exercising will reduce inflammation too. Be sure to move the ice pack around to avoid damage to the skin.
It is essential not to let an Achilles tendon problem become chronic, so if you are still experiencing pain after 2-3 weeks of trying some of the above exercises, it is important to be seen by a health professional who can treat and manage you effectively.
Alice Goodear is a Podiatrist for Surfcoast Podiatry and works at the Belmont, Ocean Grove and Jan Juc clinics.