For so many of us, exercise is a crucial part of our daily lives. Any niggle or injury that prevents us from being able to move and function day to day, can have a detrimental impact on our mental health, especially in COVID-19 circumstances where we are very restricted in where we can go and what we can do.
During the course of COVID-19, we have seen an influx in Achilles tendon injuries as a result of tendon overload. This includes; working from home with no shoes on, less incidental movement throughout the day, sudden increases in walking and running and the change in the surface from running on a treadmill to running outside.
The prolonged closure of gyms, rehabilitation centres and workplaces has meant that there is not as much exercise variety and people are substituting their normal routine for walking and running, as a way of getting out of the house. This has meant a loss of cross-training in the form of swimming, gym workouts, pilates, yoga and fitness classes.
The Achilles tendon is a strong fibrous structure that connects the calf muscle to your calcaneus (heel bone). The function of the Achilles tendon in walking and running involves plantarflexion of the foot which is crucial for the push-off phase of gait when we are walking and running. The Achilles tendon is vital in storing and releasing energy and has to withhold heavy loads of up to 6-7 times your body weight when running.
Tendons are irritable structures that do not respond well to repetitive load with a lack of rest, inconsistency in training and sudden changes in a training regime.
Achilles tendon pain can manifest in many different levels of pain and various stages from an early inflammatory stage to a prolonged chronic stage where the structure has calcified.
The most common precursor of tendon pain is when the load (walking, running or any given sport) exceeds the capacity and strength of the tissues, therefore resulting in an injury to this structure.
Other common causative factors of Achilles tendon pain include:
The treatment and management of Achilles tendon pain are dependent on the stage of injury and the level of pain experienced. Below are some changes that can be made to target an irritable Achilles tendon.
Gradual heavy loading (within tolerable pain range) is required to strengthen the tendon and prevent re-injury of the structure.
A weighted calf raise is a vital exercise for building strength in the lower leg and foot.
Implementing calf and plantar fascia rolling into your cool down and recovery routine post-exercise is a great way to alleviate tightness and symptoms.
Incorporating a second pair of runners to alternate between, can reduce repetitive strain through the muscles in your legs.
For any questions about your Achilles tendon, persisting pain, or for any other enquiries, please don’t hesitate to contact Colin at Cannington Podiatry.