Monday, October 31, 2011
Important Achilles Stretches
What is an Achilles tendon Injury?
Firstly, let's take a look at where the Achilles tendon is located and what it does.
As you can see from the diagram to the right, the Achilles tendon is located at the rear (posterior) of the bottom half of the lower leg. In the diagram it is represented by the thick band of connective fibre that runs from bottom of the Gastrocnemius muscle to the heel bone.
The Achilles tendon is used to plantar flex the foot, or point the foot downward. This allows a person the run, jump and stand on one's toes.
The Achilles tendon is the strongest tendon of the body, and able to withstand a 1000 pound force without tearing. Despite this, the Achilles ruptures more frequently than any other tendon because of the tremendous pressures placed on it during competitive sports.
There are two main types of injuries that affect the Achilles tendon; Achillis Tendonitis and Achilles Tendon Rupture.
Achilles Tendonitis is simply an inflammation of the tendon, and in most cases is caused by excessive training over an extended period of time.
Achilles Tendon Rupture, on the other hand, is a tear (or complete snapping) of the tendon, and usually occurs as the result of a sudden or unexpected force. In the case of a complete rupture, the only treatment available is to place the lower leg in a plaster cast for 6 to 8 weeks, or surgery. As both of these treatments are beyond the scope of this newsletter, we'll be focusing the rest of this article on Achilles Tendonitis.
Causes and Risk Factors
There are a number of causes and risk factors associated with Achilles Tendonitis. One of the most common causes is simply a lack of conditioning. If the tendon, and muscles that connect to the tendon, have not been trained or conditioned, this can lead to a weakness that may result in an Achilles injury.
Overtraining is also associated with Achilles Tendonitis. Doing too much, too soon places excessive strain on the Achilles tendon and doesn't allow the tendon enough time to recovery properly. Over time small tears and general degeneration result in a weakening of the tendon, which leads to inflammation and pain.
Other causes of Achilles injury include a lack of warming up and stretching. Wearing inadequate footwear, running or training on uneven ground, and simply standing on, or in something you're not meant to. Biomechanical problems such as high arched feet or flat feet can also lead to Achilles injuries.
So what are some of the things you can do to help prevent Achilles Tendonitis?
1. Warm Up properly
A good warm up is essential in getting the body ready for any activity. A well structured warm up will prepare your heart, lungs, muscles, joints and your mind for strenuous activity.
2. Plyometric Training
Plyometric drills include jumping, skipping, bounding, and hopping type activities. These explosive types of exercises help to condition and prepare the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the lower leg and ankle joint.
3. Balancing Exercises
Any activity that challenges your ability to balance, and keep your balance, will help what's called proprioception: - your body's ability to know where it's limbs are at any given time.
4. Stretch and Strengthen
I'll cover these in a lot more detail a little later on when I discuss rehabilitation and conditioning exercises.
Be aware of the importance of good footwear. A good pair of shoes will help to keep your ankles stable, provide adequate cushioning, and support your foot and lower leg during the running or walking motion.
Source: The Stretching Institute