Don’t Let Achilles Pain Let You Down At Your Next Race!
In this article I will outline 3 simple steps that will allow you to stop achilles pain in it’s tracks before it even begins. These tips are based on years of experience working with runners who suffer from this condition. My goal is to arm you with the tools to prevent achilles pain in order for you to add those summer miles and hit your PR’s!
For my auditory and/ or visual learners, click the video below to view the Facebook livestream I did on this topic during our weekly Monday Night SPARK Live!
The achilles tendon is the soft tissue structure that connects the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) to the heel bone. It is one of the largest and thickest tendons you have in your body but is the most commonly torn tendon. This is a common running related injury characterized by pain and stiffness in the back of your heel bone area especially first thing in the morning and during the beginning of a run. Typically, the pain may loosen up after a mile or two but then pain will return as you increase your mileage.
3 Most Common Reasons To Get Achilles Tendon Pain:
1. Limited Ankle Mobility:
Limited ankle flexion mobility (dorsiflexion) is a common clinical pattern I see with many runners who suffer from this condition. As a runner you may feel pinching pain in the front of their ankle (especially with hill work or going down stairs) or stretching in the back of the achilles or calf muscle. You can see if you are limited in this motion by placing your foot a couple of inches from a wall and lunging forward until your knee hits the wall. Keep moving your foot slighty back until your knee can barely hit the wall. That is how much ankle mobility you have. Compare it to the other side and see if you are equal. If you have asymmetrical tightness then that could be a contributing factor to your achilles pain. There are some simple manual therapy techniques we do as clinicians that can improve this mobility and decrease the stress to the achilles tendon. There are also some great self mobilization and stretching exercises you can do to to continue to improve this motion. Here is a collection of calf stretching exercises that will help improve the soft tissue mobility of the calf and achilles complex.
2. Limited Calf Muscle Strength:
Most people associate achilles tendonitis with tight calves when in fact it is the strength and endurance of the calf muscle that has been shown to be more of a risk factor for having this condition. It is also the important factor in preventing achilles tendon pain. As a runner, you should be able to perform 25 calf raises slow and controlled maintaining your knee fully straight on each leg. If you are not able to do this then you need to strengthen your calf muscle for endurance to tolerate the demands of running. In this video, I demonstrate how to perform the calf raise exercise with the knee straight as well as with the knee bent in order to build the resilience in your calf muscles.
For more info on how to prevent injuries with soft tissue care, I direct you to a previous article I wrote on this topic:
For my special recipe on how I like to foam roll the calf muscle check out the video below and while you are there subscribe to my YouTube channel so you don’t miss the next exercise that may help you 😉
3. Training errors:
Building up your mileage too soon or adding in weekly mileage at the same time as you are adding in speed work into your training can be a recipe for disaster. Your body and your tissues, specifically the soft tissues like the achilles take time to adapt to the stresses of running. Build up your mileage by not increasing more than 10% from the previous week. Also take into consideration your running shoes and consider if they should be replaced. The typical recommendation is to replace your running sneakers between 350-450 miles depending on your size.
In this article I provided an overview of the 3 most common reasons runners suffer from achilles tendonitis and the exercises you can do to combat this condition. We covered how limited ankle mobility will create more stress on the achilles tendon and the exercises you can do to improve this. We also talked about the importance of having strength and endurance in the calf muscle to build the resilience of this structure to tolerate the demands of running. We also talked about how training errors or poor running sneakers may contribute to this problem. Remember, achilles tendon pain should not be ignored because a chronic long term injury could eventually lead to a tear. Keep active and keep moving friends!
Are you a runner looking for a community that is dedicated to helping you stay happy and healthy doing what you love?
You could be an active adult starting out with a couch to 5k program or you may be an experienced marathoner!
The free Healthy Runner CT facebook group is your answer!
Our specialty here is prehab, rehab, recovery, and performance for all types of runners!
Click here to join our community http://bit.ly/HealthyRunnerGroup
Are you a runner that is trying to stay healthy but can’t train because pain is stopping you from meeting your goals?
Are you worried that an injury will limit you from doing what you love like working out and training?
Have you wondered what it will cost you in the long run if you continue to train through pain?
Have you seen other medical providers in the past that just tell you to stop your activity?
We have a unique treatment approach that focuses on solving these problems with our clients. We combine manual hands-on techniques with guided supervised exercises to help you get stronger, pain-free and perform at your peak level to get you back on the road doing what you love. Our goal is to help keep you active and on the road, while recovering from injury by guiding you in ways to modify your training, rather than eliminating running!
The SPARK Physical Therapy Commitment
No long waits or multiple trips to providers’ offices every week. We see you either onsite at a partnering gym or in the comfort of your home when it is convenient with your schedule.
One on one for a full hour with your doctor of physical therapy, every visit. We provide you with a customized plan specifically designed for you, based off your unique injury and goals.
Full transparency in what you pay. You will never get a bill from us a couple of months after your visit.
Access and availability to you! Have a question about your pain or exercise program? Get an answer from your therapist directly.
If you’re in the Wallingford, CT area and are a runner that has been dealing with injuries we can help. We’d love to chat for a few minutes and see if you are a good fit for what we do. Fill in the contact request and we’ll set up a free 10-minute phone consultation with a doctor of physical therapy
Thank you for taking the time to read,
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“I developed IT band syndrome during my first marathon training cycle last year and ended up in physical therapy for about 3 months. I was told not to run if I had any pain at all. I lost so much time “recovering” that I ended up deferring my registration to the next year. I spent the next summer training for the same marathon when about 6 weeks out, that familiar IT band pain returned. I could barely finish a mile. I didn’t want to go back to my physical therapist because I knew what he was going to tell me. Stop running. I was so frustrated and started to feel like marathons weren’t for me. I stumbled upon the healthy runner podcast and learned that I don’t have to stop running in order to recover from injury! I was skeptical about an online physical therapy session. But I reached out to Dr. Scotti and he was able to give me the tools to mitigate my pain within the first session! I was able to complete my training cycle and made it to the finish line of my first marathon with his help! I highly recommend!”
“I’d been dealing with Proximal Hamstring Tendinopathy (PHT) for about 4 years and had been doing PT, but still had lingering pains. I just figured I’d have to suck it up and deal with it because that was as good as I was going to get. But then, I came across a podcast of Duane being interviewed by Jason Fitzgerald on PHT and how he overcame the injury, and my curiosity was piqued. I met with him virtually and he has been a GODSEND! I’m able to sit as I type this! I can bend over and get in and out of cars without pain! And, I’m RUNNING again!!! It is amazing to be able to do things that I haven’t been able to do without pain since 2016!!! Thank you so much Duane for being an incredible PT!!”
“I suffered from IT band syndrome for four years before seeing Dr. Scotti in April 2020. Before then, I couldn’t run more than about 10 minutes without stabbing pain near my left knee. I’d seen various orthopedists, physical therapists, and chiropractors looking for some relief. My career needed me to run a mile and a half within a certain amount of time, and it was impossible to do so with the knee pain. I saw Dr. Scotti and he immediately got to work! That first visit, he helped me understand the anatomy and underlying cause of my knee pain (aka IT Band syndrome). Once I understood what was happening, the course of treatment made so much sense. Not only did he have online videos of all the recommended exercises to treat the problem, his “healthy runner” Facebook group, Podcast, and YouTube videos held a wealth of information and supplemented my plan. I soon understood that running wasn’t just a casual hobby – it’s a sport and one that deserves dedication and focus. Without his dedication to the sport and his community, I wouldn’t have realized this! Over the next few months, I had many ups and downs – victories and failures – and even some tears! Two steps forward and one step back. Dr. Scotti always checked in between appointments and tweaked my plan if needed. By August, I was regularly running 3-4 miles with barely any pain! If I did get pain, it was because my dedication and focus were lacking – and I quickly picked it back up and overcame. I’m so thankful I took another chance at having my knee looked at and trusted someone else. I run regularly now and am really enjoying it. I can’t thank Dr. Scotti enough and would highly recommend him to anyone having trouble.”