Achilles Tendon troubles are a common problem for runners. Sometimes it can be tricky knowing what you should do to get back and running again without pain. With acknowledgment to Jill Cook who is the world guru on tendon pathology here is a list of what not to do.
Overload the tendon
Pain is telling you that whatever you’ve been doing is too much. Tendons can be tricky though – often there is a 24-hour delay before they tell you that you’ve done too much. It’s not until the next morning that you know you’re in real trouble. D’oh just when you were feeling so good too!
When the Achilles acts like a spring, (think hopping, jumping, sprinting) it is under its highest load and most likely to complain the following day. Running is basically hopping from foot to foot and explains why your Achilles might flare up the day after a run. Exercising with weights in a slow, controlled fashion is what you are after. We need to get that Achilles able to tolerate load before it can act like a spring again.
Rest the tendon
Here I am telling you not to overload the tendon and now I am telling you not to rest the tendon. Jeepers! What are you supposed to do?? Well just as too much load is no good for the tendon, complete rest is equally problematic. The Goldilocks principle comes into play, you need reduce the stress to a level that the tendon can tolerate and then aim to increase the tolerance of the tendon to take load. Use it or lose it but don’t overdo it.
Massage the Tendon
Massaging the tendon itself hurts, so normally that’s enough reason not to do it but also massage aggravates the tendon and can slow down the healing process. Massage the calf instead is a better plan.
If your Achilles Tendon is painful - do not stretch it! One thing tendons hate is compression. If you do the standard standing calf stretch, or worse still, the stretch where you drop your heel off the back of a step and really sink the heel down you are compressing the living daylights out of your Achilles. Ouch! And it will slow down your recovery. Much better to massage the calf muscle if it is feeling tight or do some mobility work, just don’t massage the tendon!!
Take Short Cuts
There are no short cuts to getting your Achilles back on track. ( think injections, doing your strength work for a few days and thinking you’re done) It can take 3 months or more to increase the capacity of the Achilles, but if you do the work the outcomes are good.
Of course if you are in any doubt about what to do – get it checked out by a health professional.