Achilles tendon is a tendon located at the back of the leg, connecting the calf muscle to the heel bone. It`s main function is allowing us (our toes) to push off the ground when we walk, run or jump. Through the tendon, the calf muscles rotate the foot around the ankle, allowing it to move and change position.
It is the strongest tendons of our body and it is enduring an enormous amount of stress each day. For this reason, Achilles tendon injuries and strains are very common and widespread.
Pain Causes And Symptoms
The main cause of Achilles tendonitis (chronic pain) is overuse. It will start out gradually, manifest itself as a pain which is becoming more intensive as the time goes by. And the biggest mistake people make is to push through the pain, don`t be one of them. You must think of pain as a warning sign, your body`s way of telling you “Take me to the doctor!”
Another common cause of pain is lack of flexibility. If you have been out of shape for some time and decide to engage in any demanding physical activity without a proper warm up or stretching routine, something is bound to go wrong. I know that many of you hate warming up, but if you want to protect your body learn to like it 🙂
Other common causes are:
- Demanding and/or intense physical activity
- Inflammation processes in the tendon(s)
- Weak leg muscles
- Inadequate running equipment
- Sharp, debilitating pain in the tendon
- Pain in the back of the leg/ankle
- Scar-like bumps
- Morning pain, right after waking up
Even though it is the strongest tendon in our body, it doesn`t mean it can`t rupture. It usually happens suddenly, without any warning or indication. As soon as this happens, seek medical help! The pain will be very sharp and your leg will swell up, making walking almost impossible.
There is no way of knowing will the tendon heal itself, and the more you delay your visit to the doctor, the higher are the chances of complication. The recovery process is usually very slow, since, after the surgery, the ankle will be immobilized. This is followed by rehabilitation – physiotherapy, usually lasting around 3 months.
If you experience Achilles tendon pain, you should stop what you are doing immediately and begin gentle stretching. After some moderate stretching you can apply ice, elevate the leg and call your doctor.
If you are already experiencing pain or an injury, you must be careful not to make things worse and only stretch it gently. Since you came here looking for information on this type of pain, I will assume you are looking for more gentle exercises, and here they are.
Leg Stretch. Lie down on the floor and extend the affected leg. Reach out to your toes and pull them towards you gently. Hold this stretch for 10-15 seconds and release.
Book Stretch. Grab your average book, place it on the floor and stand on it, with your heel touching the floor. Depending on the level of flexibility and pain, pick a book of the right thickness.
Bend Over. This stretch is pretty self explanatory. Stand up straight and bend in the hips, while keeping your knees straight. Bend as much as you can but don`t force it if you are in pain.
Towel Stretch. This is pretty much the same exercise as the “Leg stretch” we listed above, but it`s for those less flexible. Sit on the floor with your legs extended and wrap a towel around the upper part of your foot. Now pull it towards you and hold the position for 10-15 seconds.