Achilles tendon injury is common. It can be painful and make it difficult to exercise or even walk. Stretches can help speed up healing and improve mobility.
In this article, we discuss what the Achilles tendon is - its common problems and sources. We also outline recommended stretches and workouts to strengthen the Achilles tendon and offer some tips on getting back to exercise after an Achilles tendon injury.
What is the Achilles tendon
The Achilles tendon is an important muscle in your body that connects the calf to the heel. Doctors might also call it the heel cord. These strong, flexible muscles allow for quick sprinting or standing up from a sitting position without feeling any pain -- until it gets injured! Just like legend’s famous hero—Achilles himself, these amazing muscles aren't completely impervious because they do so much for your body--it's easy to overstress them.
What are the common injuries to the Achilles tendon
Achilles tendonitis is usually caused by intense and excessive physical activity. Its symptoms include tightness, weakness, discomfort, and a limited range of motion. If your Achilles tendons get stressed or overworked from daily activities like long hours spent walking or running without stop, they can become injured and may cause pain in addition to any other symptoms like high swelling.
The two main Achilles tendon problems are:
Achilles tendinopathy, also called Achilles tendinitis, is the degeneration and damage of collagen in the tendon caused by overuse or by a lot of pushing off or stop-and-go motions, but it could also happen while playing that requires landing heavily on one foot like soccer. Symptoms include swelling, pain, and stiffness in the back of the leg in the morning
Achilles tendon rupture can be partial with mild or no symptoms or completely tear (rupture) which may cause pain and sudden loss of strength and movement. Middle-aged adults are especially likely to get this kind of injury. Symptoms may include swelling in the area between the heel and the calf and difficulty walking and standing on tiptoe. Anyone who suspects that they have an Achilles tendon rupture should speak to a doctor because they will usually need medical treatment.
The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society says that people can usually start light jogging within 3–6 months of an Achilles rupture. However, getting back into sports that involve pivoting or jumping may take longer—sometimes up to 9 months or more than a year to get back to full strength.
How are they treated?
Treatments for mild Achilles tendon problems include rest, over-the-counter pain medicine, and stretching exercises. Wearing well-cushioned shoes and refraining from high-intense workouts and sports to reduce stress on the tendon are highly recommended.
If you have an Achilles tendon rupture, speak to a doctor immediately because you might need immediate medical treatment or surgery.
At MDUB, we know how much difficulty getting back on your feet after an injury can be. That's why our goal is to help you prevent future problems and ensure that any pain is mild enough so as not to limit movement or activities of daily living like work!
Focusing on strengthening the tendons around the Achilles heel with exercises for beginners all the way up through more advanced techniques and using preventive devices such as straps and braces to keep everything safe while also helping avoid complications down.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and the National Health Service (NHS) recommends the following stretches and exercises to speed up healing and improve mobility of the Achilles tendon:
Standing Heel Raises
This exercise helps strengthen your calves and stretch your Achilles tendon:
- Step 1: Standing on a flat or slightly raised surface, balance you weight on the balls of your feet.
- Step 2: Carefully raise yourself up onto your toes and hold a “tip-toe” position for several seconds, then lower yourself back onto the ground.
- Repeat steps 1 and 2 up to 25 times per day if you are not feeling pain. Make sure you’re raising and lowering yourself slowly because the controlled motion is the point of the exercise.
Follow the steps below to develop control over the calf muscle and stretch the Achilles tendon:
- Step 1: Stand on both feet with the legs straight.
- Step 2: Use the uninjured leg to rise onto the tiptoes.
- Step 3: Keeping both feet on the floor, transfer the weight across to the affected leg and lower down, using the good leg to help if necessary.
- Repeat. Aim for 3 sets of 15 repetitions, twice a day.
Bilateral heel drop
The set of movements for this exercise is as follows:
- Step 1: Stand on the edge of a stable raised platform, such as the bottom step of a staircase.
- Step 2: Adjust the position of the feet so that just the front half of each foot is on the step. Make sure you can move the heels up and down without them hitting the floor.
- Rise onto the tiptoes then lower both heels as far as possible.
- Repeat 20 times.
Calf-plantar fascia stretch
Perform this exercise by following the steps below:
- Step 1:Sit with your legs extended and knees straight.
- Step 2: Place a towel around your foot just under the toes.
- Step 3: Hold each end of the towel in each hand, with your hands above your knees.
- Step 4: Pull back with the towel so that your foot stretches toward you and hold the position for at least 15 to 30 seconds.
- Repeat 2 to 4 times a session, up to 5 sessions a day.
This exercise helps increase general foot dexterity and reduce tightness in the Achilles tendon:
- Step 1: Place a towel flat on the ground in front of a chair, then sit down in the chair with your heels on the edge of the towel.
- Step 2: With one foot, reach out and use your toes to grab the towel, then pull the towel toward you under your feet.
- Step 3: Repeat until you run out of towels, then repeat the whole exercise with your other foot.
- Repeat 2 to 3 times daily.
Remember that follow-up care is a key part of the treatment and safety. it's important to see your doctor on a regular basis.
Get back on the fitness track
Achilles injuries can be frustrating and challenging to deal with. It’s important to rest and stop any physical activities to ensure a continuous and faster recovery. Ice packs can help reduce swelling and pain, but it's best if we wait until after the initial phase of rehabilitation when patients focus more heavily on prevention and early treatment.
Strengthening the Achilles tendon can be a great first step toward healing properly - plus using straps or braces will prevent further problems down the line!
Have problems with your Achilles tendon? Do you need care for anything else related to your feet or ankles? We got you covered with the MDUB Crosstraps! Visit www.mdubathletics.com for more details on how we can help you.