Achilles Pain and Running

The Achilles is the thick tendon from the lower calf to the heel. As you might have seen quite recently, David Haye reportedly ruptured his Achilles tendon in the boxing match against Tony Bellew. The relevance of this example is the similarities between boxing and running. You repetitively push off from your foot, activating your calf muscle (gastrocnemius) and adding load to the Achilles tendon.

As you can imagine, the repetitive action of running activates the calf muscle with every stride, hence runners being prone to Achilles pain. Often diagnosed as Achilles tendonitis, 6-18% of runners are hindered by this common problem, affecting 1 million athletes every year. The onset is often a gradual build up, suggested to be down to intermittent, overuse and high force activities.

A complete rupture is less common. It usually occurs in males between the ages of 30-50 who are often described as ‘weekend warriors.’ In other words, they work all week and do no physical exercise and then go mad for sports on a weekend.

Are you experiencing pain in the Achilles?

·         Achilles and/or calf pain with possible swelling.

·         Pain when activating the calf (walking, jumping etc)

·         Possible thickening of the tendon.

·         Stiff and painful in the morning, can ease through the day.

What can you do?

Unfortunately, you have to cut down on the running. If you’re already suffering with Achilles pain, the repetitive loading of the lower limb will make it much worse. The Achilles needs time to repair, if you’re still applying high force to the area it doesn’t have a chance to do so. Try walking the length of a swimming pool instead. This will reduce the pressure on the Achilles but still enable a good workout.

Hot and cold therapy – tendons have a poor blood supply so can take longer to heal than muscle injuries. By repeatedly applying 5 minutes of ice followed by 5 minutes of heat for 30-minute cycles, the blood vessels will restrict and dilate. This acts as a pumping mechanism, encouraging blood flow to the area. Blood provides the essentials for repair…

Consult an Osteopath. This can effect anyone, you don't have to be an athlete to aggravate your Achilles. As as Osteopath, we assess your gait, biomechanical dysfunction, provide hands on therapy and tailor your rehabilitation programme in order to return to normal daily function and sports as soon as possible. Treatment will usually consist of targeting the posterior chain of the lower extremity, not just the calf.