Exercise is medicine when it comes to Achilles heel pain physiotherapy management, and the key to returning back to sport successfully involves a great strengthening program which involves heavy resistance training and hopping drills to help train the Achilles to adapt to the functional needs of sports.
By doing so, you can return to sport performing well and without pain! In this blog post, we show 3 examples of appropriate exercises which can be performed depending on the stage of rehabilitation.
1. Single leg calf raise using a Smith Machine, performed slowly with heavy weight off the edge of a step:
Heavy, slow, full-range strengthening has been supported in the research as highly effective for pain and provides a great base of strength, which is important for function because ‘power’ is ultimately the application of strength at a high speed.
So, the stronger you become, the more powerful you can potentially be for activities such as taking off to sprint or jumping to rebound a basketball.
Recommended rep range for Achilles tendon strengthening:
The best rep range for strength gains is 5-6 reps and lower. This means that the best way to get stronger is to pick a load or weight at which failure is achieved with no more than 5 or 6 reps. However with Achilles physiotherapy management, the tendon may be too painful if performing this exercise with too much weight. In this case, we recommend a rep range of between 8-12, which is still effective for improving strength but with a slightly lighter weight to reduce the chances of flaring up the Achilles tendon pain.
Tempo for Achilles HEEL tendon strengthening:
For Achilles strength, each rep should be relatively slow and controlled, and go for at least 2 seconds on the way up, and at least 2 seconds on the way down.
Frequency for Achilles tendon strengthening:
This depends on the pain response (if any) with the calf raise, whether it has been recommended to achieve failure in each set, and whether there is DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) after doing the exercise. Generally speaking, 3-4 times per week is a good frequency for strengthening in Achilles tendon pain physiotherapy management.
“Safe” pain during Achilles tendon strengthening:
Naturally, exercise rehabilitation of an injured part of the body may occasionally be painful. Pain in the range of 1-3/10 is generally acceptable with physiotherapy rehabilitation of a painful Achilles heel tendon, and will cause further injury.
2. Load and lift
Power = Strength x Speed
One of the main goals with Achilles heel physiotherapy management is to restore Power for the jumping, hopping and landing activities which are required in sport and running.
While single leg calf raises are great for covering the strength aspect of power, the load and lift mimics the action of taking off to spring, and is a great exercise for training the healing Achilles tendon to the speed aspect of power, without the impact of jumping and landing. Each rep should be performed at a relatively quick speed.
3. A-skips FOR ACHILLES PHYSIOTHERAPY MELBOURNE
A-skips are a great exercise to put together both strength and speed in a functional movement. To start with, it can be performed without weights, and dumbbells or weight plates can be held above the head to provide extra resistance
While a full program for Achilles tendon pain will likely involve more exercises than just the above, it is important to re-adapt the Achilles tendon for both the strength and speed demands of sport.
Will Achilles tendon pain go away if I just rested it?
While it’s true that avoiding painful activities will reduce the pain, ultimately rest alone won’t help to fix the problem as it is highly likely the symptoms start again when one returns back to running and jumping activities. The tendon’s job is to send forces from the calf to the ankle, and it won’t get better at its job if it’s not made to work through a strengthening program.
At Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy, we are highly trained at offering appropriate and various calf raise and hopping-type exercises to restore the normal function of the Achilles so that it can handle general exercise and sport.
Does stretching help Achilles tendon pain?
Patients often have stories that they’ve been doing their best to try and stretch their painful Achilles tendon in an effort to reduce the pain and fix the tendon.
Unfortunately, injured tendons don’t respond well to stretching alone as it increases tendon swelling. In fact, aggressive stretching can make the problem worse.
How can Physiotherapy help you?
At Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy our goal is to get you moving pain free as soon as possible.
But, we also want you to actually move better and live a healthier, more active and fulfilling life!
If your work has been wearing your body down, book in with one of our expert physiotherapists so we can help you reduce your pain and bullet proof your body so that you can keep working in the long run.
If you are showing some signs of injury or simply want help staying injury-free then book in with one of our highly experienced Physiotherapists today!