Achilles Heel

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In ancient times a mythological figure named Achilles came to his downfall because of a blow to his calf muscle tendon, hence the term Achilles tendon. Metaphorically the term “Achilles heel” is used to describe a weakness or vulnerability. Little did we know how this metaphorical term will become a physical burden to many.

The Achilles tendon connects the soleus and gastrocnemius calf muscles to the heel bone. Tendinous structures have less blood supply than muscular tissue, and therefor heal slower. Pain develops when scar tissue and inflammation develops due to stresses or continual load on the tendon. Without rest and treatment, this tendon thickens and in severe cases, rupture.

In acute phase the tendon can appear red, swollen and will limit any running activity to the point of stopping. Ice, rest and physiotherapy management will facilitate healing.

If the condition progresses without treatment, it will reach the chronic tendinopathy phase where healing is much more difficult and not guaranteed. Pain gets better as you run because it warms up, but worsens after cooling down.

Common causes:

  • Overtraining
  • Worn-out shoes
  • Tight calves
  • Weak pelvic and core muscles
  • High-heeled shoes

Treatment:

  • RICE regime
  • Physiotherapy
  • Eccentric heel drops:

Stand on a step, heels slightly hanging off. Do single leg calve raises on the unaffected leg, and then transfer weight to affected leg. Now very slowly drop the affected heel past the step to feel a stretch in Achilles tendon. Repeat 3 x 15, 3 times per day.

  • Calf stretches