Calf and Achilles Tendon Pain

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The Achilles tendon is a structure in the lower posterior aspect of your shin which forms the connection between your calf muscles (soleus and gastrocnemius) and your heel bone also known as your calcaneus. During running the soleus muscle and subsequently your Achilles tendon deals with extremely high loads. In fact during running the soleus muscle of your calf has to deal with forces 6.5 - 8 times your bodyweight, which is more than any other muscle in the lower body during sub maximal running. As a result of this it is not uncommon for the Achilles tendon to become over loaded and painful in response to high volume or high intensity training.

Achilles tendinopathies are a common injury in the athletic population which usually occurs due to a rapid or sudden increase in training load or running which leads to structural changes in the tendon causing pain and discomfort, in particular when the ankle is in a dorsi-flexed (narrow angle between foot and shin) position.

There are different types of tendinopathy which can occur in the Achilles and each case tends to need an individualised approach to rehab. However, we do know that damaged tendons tend not to repair themselves and the best way to return to training is by increasing the tendon’s tolerance to deal with different types of loading. Rest from aggravating activity for a designated period of time is not sufficient to prevent your pain from returning and as such it is hugely important to start loading your calf and Achilles tendon in the correct way as well as correcting any potential biomechanical pre-disposing factors as soon as possible under the supervision of a certified Athletic Therapist and Trainer.

You can go a long way towards reducing your risk of calf and Achilles tendon injury by including heavy calf resistance training and controlled plyometric training in your strength programme. Managing your training and activity levels according to how your body and mind is reacting by including sufficient rest and recovery periods will also greatly help to reduce the chances of injury occurring.