The Achilles tendon forms the connection between the heel and calf muscle. This vital tendon consists of soft tissue and muscle that is responsible for lifting the heel. Achilles tendonitis refers to the inflammation of this tendon, which results in discomfort, swelling, and restricted movement. Many athletes, such as runners or basketball players, are often vulnerable to this condition. Here is a look at the causes and symptoms of Achilles tendonitis and how chiropractic treatment could help alleviate the pain.
Causes and Symptoms
Achilles tendonitis is characterized by excruciating pain in the back of the ankle. There may be hardness at the calf muscle, which often makes moving the foot difficult. The pain in the area tends to increase as you engage in strenuous activity or after resting the foot overnight without sufficient stretching.
Achilles tendonitis is caused by inflammation in the Achilles tendon brought about by acute injury or overuse. Activities such as sprinting and stopping suddenly or jumping repetitively may result in the tendon getting stretched or pulled out of place, causing sharp pain and swelling. Other causes of Achilles tendonitis include tight hamstring muscles or weakness in the hip flexor. Misalignment in the pelvis, knees, or tibial tendon (arch of foot) can also cause a chain reaction that also affects the balance of the calf and heel.
Why is this pain a big deal for athletes?
The pain at the back of your heel is usually caused by adhesions, or the build-up of scar tissue, laid down in your Achilles tendon. Injury to these adhesions not only restricts movement of the calf area, it affects your body's sense of where you are as your foot touches down--referred to as proprioception. Proper proprioception is vital for athlete's in improving their form and muscle memory.
How Chiropractic Care Can Help
Using ice or heat can relieve the pain temporarily, but those methods are often not very effective at releasing the adhesion in the affected tendon; so, chiropractors often turn to non-invasive physical techniques.
The most common chiropractic approaches used to treat Achilles tendonitis are "active release techniques," which comprise the use of gentle manipulation and massage of the calf and heel area. By adjusting the calf and heel, chiropractors are usually able to restore a pulled tendon into place, remove adhesions in the calf and heel, and reduce inflammation.
This can then be followed by hand adjustments to any offending muscles around the tendon area, including the soleus and gastrocnemius. Once the pain in the heel subsides, stretching routines such as simple toe-raise exercises may then be used to stretch the tendon and promote healing.