I’ve recently had a couple of clients come to me asking for advice on sore achilles tendon*. It’s an area I’ve had a fair share of problems with myself. Achilles tendon injuries are often brought on by over exerting through exercise – namely running. Very common with long distance running. The continual stress running on hard surfaces has on your ankles can cause issues. In my case it was down to training two separate clients for marathons at the same time. I was essentially doing marathon prep twice over and the time on my feet running was too much and I ended up suffering with chronic achilles tendinopathy for nearly a year. Under the impression that the only way to cure the problem was through rest, I resigned myself to thinking I was just going to have to live with it – as rest isn’t exactly an option for a mobile personal trainer. Luckily, I couldn’t have been more wrong!
Fortunately, I started training a physio (Sarah Duncton, www.physioart.co.uk) and after a few weeks she noticed I had a slight limp every so often and asked me what was wrong. She explained the commonality of the injury and gave me an exercise to do. She instructed me to do 3 sets of 20 reps twice a day for 5-6 weeks. Apparently, Achilles tendon strains were, as I had incorrectly thought, always regarded as injuries that needed rest. Historically recovery time was actually quicker if the tendon was torn. Hakan Alfredson, one of the world’s leading specialists in treatment of achilles injuries, formulated the treatment when he was trying to tear his achilles tendon in order to speed up the recovery process.
As you should see from the video, the exercise focuses on calve raises- with the emphasis on the lowering (eccentric) motion. Stand on a raised step (bottom of stairs works fine) on your toes. Lower your heels down until your foot is parallel with the floor. This is your start position. From there, lift up onto your toes so you are raised high. Take one foot off the step – holding onto a side for balance if you need to. Then lower your heel back down to start position, slow and steadily whilst remaining on one leg. At the bottom, put both feet back onto step. That’s one repetition. Repeat for both legs.
The science behind the exercise is simple. It’s an eccentric muscle contraction exercise that means as it contracts it gets longer rather than shorter. Eccentric focused movements are regarded as a more reliable way of increasing muscle strength. Studies have shown this exercise to be an effective treatment method for 90% of patients. You may find that the pain increases during the first few weeks. Down let this put you off – it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Pain during recovery is entirely normal and expected.
I hope anyone with a similar injury reading this finds my experience helpful.
*Please note that I am not a physiotherapist, I am a personal trainer and I am simply offering an insight into my injury experience. I received advice from a fully qualified professional, so I would always recommend that if in doubt, you should do the same. Sarah and her team at PhysioArt in Birmingham are excellent!