The Achilles tendon is the strong connection between the calf muscles and the ankle. Achilles tendinopathy typically presents with tendon pain, stiffness after rest and tenderness and is usually due to overuse beyond what it is strong enough for, or sharp spikes in activity. It occurs in 25% of all athletes and 15% of amateur runners. No wonder we see alot of this problem at the clinic! Here are some common myths regarding this problem:
Myth 1: Stretching will help the tendon
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.
Myth 2: Total rest will make the pain “go away
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.
Myth 3: Cortisone injections will fix the problem
Similar to total rest, cortisone injections may only reduce the pain temporarily. In specific cases, cortisone injections are useful, but ultimately cortisone will not strengthen the tendon and will in fact weaken it with multiple injections. Most people improve nicely with a good strengthening program to not only get rid of the pain but also return to athletic activities. Research shows an appropriate program should last at least 12 weeks.
A great strengthening program for the Achilles starts usually starts with an appropriate version of calf raises. Calf raises can vary between flat ground and off the edge of a step, double or single leg, weights or body weight only and can also vary in speed. The version you start with will depend on our assessment of what is appropriate for you based on your symptoms and your baseline strength. From there, exercises can be progressed over time towards hopping and jumping type drills and gradual return to normal running and sporting activities and load.
A healthy part of life includes enjoying sports and exercise without pain and injury symptoms. If you have pain in your Achilles, putting up with the pain is needless and something can be done about it. Organise a session with Melbourne Sports Physiotherapist and we will help you get back towards a healthy tendon, better athletic performance and a happier you!
What we do at Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy
Here at Melbourne Sports we go further than simply diagnosing your injury and providing you with rehab to complete. Following our detailed assessment, our main priority is to get you back to what you love doing as soon as possible. Our rehab process typically includes hands-on treatment to settle symptoms, a detailed rehab exercise program and a carefully mapped out return to running plan. Given load management is so important, once you are back running we will also help you plan your sessions so you can safely increase your running load.
What is often not realised is as Physiotherapists we don’t just see you once you are injured. We want to prevent injury from happening in the first place! We work hard in the injury prevention space and often see keen, healthy runners for a detailed running assessment to help them stay injury free.
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!