I see several injuries walk through my door every week. Many are attached to active individuals with their sports of choice, but far more of them come in on folks like you and me. They have day jobs that require too much time sitting or driving, and they desperately just want to move their bodies. Weekend warriors and urban athletes get the short end of the stick. They know they need some exercise for their sanity, but end up with nagging injuries preventing them from getting their necessary exercise.
Shoulders and backs seem to take the brunt of it, but some of the most recalcitrant are heel pain and Achilles tendon pain, often called Achilles tendonitis, tendonosis, as well as plantar fasciitis and fasciosis.
I’ve been geeking out this year to functional movement patterns, e.g. how does the body move in real life across multiple planes with multiple joint movements simultaneously. We don’t live life moving in isolated planes, nor can we appropriately treat them effectively if viewing them in this manner!
Back to your calf and heel: studies of the thick, powerful Achilles tendon show its ability to manage 900kg of force when running, nearly 2000lbs! It’s a beast. When it starts to hurt, there is no ignoring it. Every step, every adjustment through the back of the leg causes pain.
Without letting my geekiness run away into the nitty gritty details of anatomy (you can geek out too, just click here), the most recent studies show the tendon itself does not act as a whole! There are sublayers to the tendon, attached to the different calf muscles, likely with varying levels of stiffness and use.
From the treatment prospective, this means more precise assessment is needed to address tension along the calf muscles with more attention paid to how you, and your legs, are moving you through this life.
- Taija Finni, Michel Bernabei, Guus C. Baan, Wendy Noort, Chris Tijs, and Huub Maas. Nonuniform displacement and strain between the soleus and gastrocnemius subtendons of rat Achilles tendon. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, November 2017 DOI: 10.1111/sms.13001