The Achilles tendon is the biggest tendon in the human body. Unfortunately, it is a common area for recurring injuries.
Chronic Achilles tendinopathy refers to a wide variety of conditions regarding the Achilles tendon and includes tears, inflammation, and ruptures. For the client and therapist, such recurring injuries can be persistent and downright frustrating.
How can you help your clients regarding chronic Achilles injuries? What treatment and preventative strategies can thwart injury recurrence? Educating your client, prescribing and thoroughly explaining appropriate exercises, and using proper manual therapy techniques can help pave the way for your client’s recovery. Let’s take a closer look!
Educate Your Clients-
The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel. The calf muscles are used to push off from the ground to initiate running, walking, pivoting, or jumping movements. Repeated movements, improper footwear, flat feet, and tight calf muscles can contribute to Achilles injuries.
Determine the cause of your client’s Achilles injury. Educate them on preventative methods, such as rest, proper footwear, orthotics, and stretching to decrease repeated stress on the Achilles. Does your client wear high heels all day long? Advise them to forego the heels. Is your client involved in running or sprinting sports? Encourage them to take a break from their sport and take the time to rest and recover.
In severe cases, such as where a rupture occurred or surgery was necessary, it may take 12 weeks to 6 months to fully heal. If their Achilles has not ruptured, warn them that persistent and repeated injury could potentially lead to a full rupture which could take longer to heal when compared to a mild tear. Further, make sure your client is in the know on icing techniques.
Recommend to your clients to ice 20 minutes at a time, at least 3 times a day. Fully explain the condition to each client and make them aware of warning signs, such as pain, to avoid aggravation or re-occurrence.
Prescribe Appropriate At-Home Exercises-
Calf strengthening exercises, such as heel raises, and calf stretching exercises, targeting the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, can help in injury prevention and recovery. Strengthening the calf after the initial stages of rehabilitation provide support to the Achilles tendon. Proprioception exercises, such as balancing on one foot, strengthen stabilizing muscles surrounding the ankle and can further contribute to preventing recurrence.
Make sure to thoroughly explain each exercise and why your client should complete their exercises every day (Check out some of our previous blog posts to find out how!). iBody Academy’s online Home Exercise Program can provide an easy-to-use method to engage your clients and guarantee completion of their at-home exercises.
Implement Appropriate Manual Therapy Techniques-
Gentle massage techniques and soft tissue manipulation techniques, such as cross-fiber work and myofascial release, can release adhesions in and around the tendon, providing relief and preventing scar tissue buildup. Scar tissue buildup can cause range of motion issues and is important for future injury prevention and proper recovery. Using such techniques to stretch and release the muscles attached to the Achilles, particularly the soleus, can also help.
Achilles tendon injuries do not have to be chronic issues for your clients! Educate them, prescribe appropriate exercises, and apply fitting manual therapy techniques to get them on track and back to the things they know and love!