It never seems like a good time to get hurt.
It never seems like a good time to get hurt. An unexpected injury can be a major disruption to your life and not only cause pain, but interfere with responsibilities like going to work or taking care of a loved one. Physiotherapists are not immune to this. Just over a year ago while playing soccer, I completely ruptured my Achilles tendon. I was doing something I’ve done thousands of times before and this injury was completely unexpected. I assumed I was healthy because I had been symptom free, but often problems can silently develop in our bodies that leave us vulnerable to injury. In my case, a diagnostic ultrasound after my injury revealed severe thickening of my Achilles tendon, which suggested advanced tendonosis. This gradual ‘wear and tear’ of the tendon weakens the tissue, and once loaded with a quick movement like sprinting or jumping, the tendon can rupture. My injury left me unable to work and simple daily tasks like bathing and dressing were a great struggle. I remember having a particularly tough day when a friend told me about “the slingshot effect.” The slingshot effect describes how negative events can provide us with energy to move forward, like a slingshot. Getting pulled back can propel you forward faster and farther. The way I applied the slingshot effect in my life was to take a serious audit of my health and lifestyle. Once I accepted an honest assessment of my current circumstances, I was able to make goals, and then spent some of my time off work educating myself on ways to improve my diet, sleep, and stress management. Goal setting was an essential step to aim my slingshot in the direction I wanted to go. My goal was to not only return to my pre-injury function, but to also be healthier, stronger, and incorporate more variety in my physical activity. I am happy to say that I have now fully recovered and I have even started playing soccer again. More importantly, I’ve learned to enjoy a healthier and more balanced lifestyle with better attention to my diet, something which had previously been a great challenge for me. Getting injured was an opportunity to turn my health around and applying the slingshot principle to your setbacks can help you improve your overall health as well. To keep your Achilles tendons healthy try applying these five tips to your routine: Five tips to keep your Achilles tendons healthy:
1. Listen to your body. Aches are requests, and pains are demands. Practicing kinesthetic awareness will help you determine how much activity or inactivity is enough. If the frequency or intensity of your aches and pains seem to be worsening, or if you have experienced a trauma, seek an assessment from a healthcare professional.
2. Dynamic warm-ups. This involves slow, rhythmic, and functional range of motion exercises, progressing towards quicker and more complex movements. This low-grade activity increases circulation, range of motion, and prepares the central nervous system for complex motor patterning to reduce the chance of injury.
Take a look a this dynamic warm-up.
3. Self-treatment. A regular routine of stretching and periodic self-applied soft tissue treatment like foam rolling can reduce muscle tension and improve circulation and efficiency of your muscles. Key muscle groups to address are the posterior calf muscles, small muscles in the arch of the foot, and the hip flexors.
4. Strengthening. The Achilles tendon can be strained, compensating for weak gluteal muscles and flat feet, so keep your Achilles healthy by incorporating arch strengthening and hip extension strengthening into your routine. Eccentric training of the calf muscles has been shown to improve the health and tensile strength of tendons.
5. Diet. Consuming collagen and vitamin C in our diet helps repair connective tissues in our body, and omega-3 rich foods help reduce oxidative stress on the body to decrease the slow ‘wear and tear’ effect of chronic inflammation.
Additional information on the Achilles tendon:
The Achilles tendon is the longest and strongest tendon in the body and connects the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles to the heel bone.
Functionally, it plantar-flexes the ankle, and is important for walking on the toes, pushing off in running or jumping, and absorbing landing forces. Poor blood supply of the Achilles tendon predisposes it to both acute and chronic rupture and also complicates surgical repairs
If you would like to know more about how to manage an Achilles Tendon injury or just have questions about how a physiotherapist can help you, feel free to contact me at Peter@thrivephysio.ca.