by Samy Shash
For runners, jumping athletes, and anyone who enjoys bootcamp-style training, Achilles pain can be a huge burden on your performance. It often takes months to resolve, and the pain can bounce back unexpectedly. A quick consultation with Dr. Google will often result in a prescription of hundreds and hundreds of heel raises. While heel raises are definitely the staple of any rehab program, there are a few overlooked areas which can make a big impact on your recovery.
1. Lack of hip extension
In other words, this means an inability to fully “kick back” your leg, whether it’s due to stiffness in the hip joint itself, or tightness in the muscles at the front of your hip (the hip flexors). Extending your hip back is what propels your body forward when walking or running. A loss of this forward propulsion force from your hip, means that those forces must come from somewhere else. Unfortunately, this can often place undue stress on the Achilles tendon.
2. Lack of ankle dorsiflexion
This refers to the ability of your foot to bend up towards your shin. For a quick easy way to self-assess this, try the test below. Can you fit close to a hand span between your big toe and the wall? If not, this may be a risk factor for achilles tendinopathy.
3. Too much ankle pronation
This often occurs as a secondary consequence to scenario #2. Stiffness in ankle dorsiflexion means that the extra movement at the ankle must come from elsewhere. Often this is at the joint below, called the subtalar joint. Running with the ankle moving in and out of pronation can cause excessive pulling or “wringing out” at the tendon level. It also forces your calf muscles to work harder to help keep your heel stable when running.
Achilles pain can take months to resolve, but addressing some of these overlooked mechanical factors can make the recovery process more manageable and less painful. If you feel stuck with your sporting progress due to your achilles pain, be sure to have these addressed by a physiotherapist to make sure you can get back on track!
Samy is a registered physiotherapist at Synergy, working at both the east and west end locations. He treats a wide variety of conditions including athletic injuries, aches and pains from working at home, and weekend warriors. He holds a Master of Science in Physiotherapy from McMaster University and a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from York University. If you have any specific questions for Samy he can be reached at [email protected], and to book online click HERE for the east end, or HERE for the west end.