Fit and fine: Beware of the Achilles tendon injury
Param, an avid recreational runner, has completed a number of half marathons and a few full marathons as well. He was used to running in well-cushioned shoes and someone told him that he would improve his running if he shifted to the barefoot style of running, which he adopted without altering his weekly running plan. He was so excited by his new style of running that he even added uphill sprints. On one of his up hill sprints, he felt a sharp pain in his right calf and heard a distinct pop from his calf. He stopped running. By the time he reached home, his calf had stiffened up and he could not point his toes downwards.
The reason behind...
Param had to see a doctor for his swollen calf and ankle and was diagnosed with a severely-strained Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body and connects the calf to the heel. The Achilles tendon is used when we walk, run and jump. It can take the load of running and jumping but also gets easily injured in people who play sports like football and volleyball. Runners who do a lot of hill running are particularly prone to Achilles tendon issues.
Possible causes of Achilles tendon injury
Achilles tendon injury is an overuse injury and it has a number of causes. Here are a few of them:
•Excessive speed work or uphill sprints.
•Tight calf muscles put unnecessary strain on the tendon.
•Wearing high heels through the day, which can excessively load the tendon.
•Flat feet or fallen arches. In flat feet, the arch of the foot collapses as a person takes a step. This puts extra load on the tendon.
The cure lies in resting, stretching and strengthening
Here’s how you can relieve the injury...
•Stopping the physical activity for a while is the first step. The overused tissues need to be rested for them to recover. If losing fitness is a concern, then alternate means of cardiovascular exercise like rowing or elliptical cross trainer can be used.
•Use ice for decreasing the swelling and initiating the healing process.
•Compression bandages also help in reducing the swelling.
•Wear shoes with good support for the feet –avoid any with high heels or flat-soled shoes.
•It’s a good idea to start foam rolling the calf muscles and or using a tennis ball for a more focused self massage/release.
•Tendon injuries respond best to eccentric or lowering type of exercises. Stand on a step, go up on the toes using the uninjured leg. Transfer weight to the injured leg and lower slowly till the heel is below the step. Shift the weight back to the uninjured leg to go back to raised toes. Do three sets of 15 repetitions twice a day. This exercise is done with the injured leg held straight.
•The second exercise for rehabbing the Achilles tendon is the same as above except while lowering the heel, the knee is kept bent at about 45 degrees. Do three sets of 15 repetitions twice a day
Tendon injuries can be particularly problematic and can take some time to heal, so an ounce of prevention goes a long way. Do not rush in to increase your activity or adopt a new activity or even radically different type of footwear. Give it time and the body will adapt otherwise….
(A strength and conditioning coach for the last 15 years, Kamal Singh, CSCS, specialises in post rehabilitation training and functional training.)
This is a fortnightly column. The next one will appear on April 21.
Follow @KamalSinghCSCS on Twitter
From HT Brunch, April 7, 2019
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