Achilles tendon pain is common among both competitive and recreational athletes. In this post, I’ll discuss some of the common causes and I’ll share four exercises to treat and prevent it.
As an athlete, I’ve had to deal with a few injuries.
Most of the injuries I’ve had have been traumatic — things like strains, sprains and broken bones.
I’ve been lucky enough to avoid the dreaded overuse injuries, like plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, and the like.
For the most part, my body seems to repair itself pretty quickly. Aches and pains pop up occasionally, but they usually go away within a day or two.
However, a few weeks ago, I developed a case of Achilles tendon pain that simply did not want to go away.
It popped up after a beastly sled-pulling interval workout. It was a bit tender but not bad enough that I was worried about it. And I managed to get through a lift the next day without noticing it all, so I ignored it.
A few days later I went for a run. The pain stopped me dead in my tracks and sent me limping back to my house. I deserved it really. My body had given me a pretty obvious signal after that sled workout, and I chose to ignore it.
This time, the pain was bad enough that I decided to do something about it. I took a few days off training and focused on recovery techniques instead.
I decided to write this post to help others avoid my mistake.
What causes Achilles tendon pain?
The Achilles tendons are shock absorbers. During load bearing activities — like walking, running, jumping, training, or playing sports — they absorb the impact.
During running, for example, the Achilles tendon must absorb a force of up to 12.5 times a person’s bodyweight.1 This is why athletes that compete in sports requiring repeated high-impact actions are more susceptible.
Our Achilles tendons (and calf muscles) have to do a staggering amount of work over the course of a given day.
Think about it…
An active person probably averages about 10,000 steps per day. This equates to about 5000 loads per tendon per day! And that’s without taking training or playing sports into account.
It’s no wonder that most athletes have tight calves and stiff, short Achilles tendons.
Tight calves and short Achilles tendons cause reduced ankle range of motion, which in turn, causes energy leaks that reduce athletic speed and power.
On top of the negative impact on performance, tightness, stiffness and reduced range of motion also increase the risk of Achilles tendon pain.
Pain in the Achilles is often a precursor to a more severe injury — like a strain or rupture — so it’s important to take care of it ASAP.
How to prevent and treat Achilles tendon pain
If you already have Achilles pain, the best thing to do is get assessed by a medical professional who can tell you exactly why you’re experiencing it and who can help you recover from it.
With that said, you can also incorporate mobility and self-massage exercises into your training programs to help combat current and future occurrences of Achilles pain. These exercises can help restore ankle range of motion and reduce muscle stiffness. In doing so, they reduce the risk of pain and injury.
If you’re an athlete competing in a sport that requires repeated high-stress actions — like running and jumping — then prevent Achilles issues and improve your performance by using mobility and self-massage exercises for routine maintenance.
In the video below I demonstrate 2 self-massage exercises and 2 mobility exercises that I used to overcome my own Achilles pain issue.
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1. Mazzone, MF, McCue, T. Common Conditions of the Achilles Tendon. American Family Physician. 2002, 65: 1805-1810.