Knowing About & Caring for Your Friend: The Achilles Tendon

Leave the first response May 27, 2007 / Posted in Running Injury Prevention

This runner in marathon training developed a case of “mild” Achilles tendonitis in his right let. He identified it as a dull ache right behind the ankle/just above the heel. He had been on his training schedule with long runs every other week (the last one being 20 miles) with one inteval session or tempo run per week. This runner in marathon training developed a case of “mild” Achilles tendonitis in his right let. He identified it as a dull ache right behind the ankle/just above the heel. He had been on his training schedule with long runs every other week (the last one being 20 miles) with one inteval session or tempo run per week. Hewas 47, 6 feet & 200 pounds wearing Gel Kayano’s with orthotics. It was his 5th marathon. He averaged 35 miles/week. He stretched before and after each run.

His question was: “How can I nurse this Achilles tendon along for the next 6 weeks and still do what is necessary for the race?

I’d look to the calves be it soleus or the gastrocs to find the trigger point(s) where the calf is holding and causing the semi-relaxation of the calf so that the part of the calf that can’t let go transmits the tension to the Achilles.

The other thing I’d look to, is to see, if the shins on the right leg are tight which would mean that the right calf has to work against a semi-contracted antagonist muscle. So even if you loosen up the right calf the right shin is still causing the problem for the right calf.
Then again since as you and I have talked about off and on, the tightness in the left quad or hamstring might be affecting the planting of the right foot which results in the calf problem being a result of the left leg…or tightness in the right illiopsoas.

I went through the same diagnosis with my left calf early in ’99. Ended up it was the fact that I was carrying an overweight rip stop nylon briefcase in my left hand. The excess weight tightened up my left shoulder. I also realized that when I was sitting at the computer, the chair I used which has arms, I would lean on my left elbow. The left elbow callous was the first dead giveaway. Looking in the mirror when going for my monthly body work session showed the lean to the left of my whole upper body.

Some further thoughts:

1. Is the soleus more slow than fast twitch? In my mind slow twitch muscles as mentioned are stabilizer or postural muscles. My reason for thinking that soleus is more fast twitch???

2. I want the soleus to be strong and elongated. The problem often is that it is strong and semicontracted because of a portion of it bundled/adhesioned (i.e. the fascia around a section is holding and not allowing that portion of the soleus to go through its range of motion. So when you stretch the soleus, you stretch the portion that can stretch and not the portion bundled up with the adhering fascia…causing the good muscle fibers to overstretch and gradually join the bundle that can only partially let go.

3. Remember the Achilles is tendon. Tendon is white and grisly which means there is minimal blood flow to that area. One reason tendonitis (inflammation of the tendon) doesn’t heal quickly…lack of adequate blood flow…as one sees in red oxygen enriched muscle tissue.

4. Yes, regarding the massage of the soleus once the trauma has subsided

5. One reason for icing muscles is that the cold constricts the vessels and then once the cold is stopped rich oxygenated blood flows back in to flush the area with its healing nutrients.

6. I have some question in my mind about strengthening the calves…if it means that they are strong but shortened.

7. There’s always the question in my mind about doing the heels off the step so that the calves are put under a extreme strain. If the knot in the muscle doesn’t get stretched the tension is passed along the healthy muscle fiber and then onto the minimally blood fed tendons.

8. Also there is what is called the kinetic chain concerning the movements we make as various muscles fire in a certain pattern. Putting the calf under strain by the heels off the step, the slant boards, etc. might cause more problems then they solve, if the exerciser is doing the exercise and not thinking about the way the muscles fire in sequence to create movement.

9. It’s not what you know that gets you in trouble. It’s what you know that just ain’t so. If you’re not thinking nor paying attention to your thinking body which knows how to move when you don’t think about it, then you are creating your own injuries and blaming it on something else.

And finally a web site talking about: It’s the Calves Not the Achilles:

You’ll see how I use a railing to do the rolling from side to side all the way up and down the calf. Physical Therapists call it Transverse Friction…i.e. rubbing across the muscles in the area where it is knotted.

Remember the inflammation of the Achilles tendons is often caused by the calves not letting go. That’s why I would have some reservations about the calf raises. Calf raises would only shorten the calf muscles even more. We want elongated and strong, not shortened and strong calf muscles.

Also tightness in the shins can also cause the calves to tighten unnecessarily. The front shin muscles should be relaxing maximally when the calf is contracting. . If the shin muscles can relax fully the calves have to work against muscles that cannot fully relax. When the shins are tight the calves have to work against a semi-contracted muscle.

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