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Everyone has heard of the word Achilles, and those who’ve been unfortunate enough to have had to deal with an Achilles injury know what a pain in the bum it can be. The Achilles is a large tendon that connects the two calf muscles down into the base of your heel. It’s responsible for every push-off movement, including walking, running, jumping, and even swimming. As one of the strongest tendons in the body, it can withstand forces of nearly 500kg. Even though it’s one of the strongest, it’s also amongst one of the most injured in the sporting community. But why is this? Is it more to do with our ‘glutes’ than we thought? 

Let's start with the basics 

When walking and your leg is behind you, you’ll notice that your calf muscles contract to push your toes into the ground and propel you forwards. This is the point when force is transferred through your Achilles tendon to make the movement happen. However, what other muscles are working during this time? During the push off phase, your leg is behind you, meaning your large gluteus maximus muscle (or your bum cheek) is contracting to bring your hip into what is known as extension. Walk a few steps again and on each push off phase, squeeze your bum muscle hard. Can you feel them working during this movement? 

Working hard or hardly working? 

Everything in our body is connected, so as when performing a task such as walking, multiple muscles have to work together to make the movement happen. In this case, research has found that if your large glute muscles are not doing their fair share then your calf muscles can pick up the slack and work a lot harder to propel you forwards. So instead of everything being fairly split between several muscles, more force is exerted directly through the Achilles to achieve the same movement. This makes it more susceptible to injury. Now imagine how much harder this tendon will have to work if you’re new to running, would like to do a 5k distance, 3 times per week and haven’t done any training before! At first, it will do very well at overcompensating and doing more than its fair share but usually it can only tolerate so much. Therefore, over time this can result in inflammation, pain, and break down of the tendon. 

So, what can I do? 

The first thing to identify is the cause behind your Achilles pain and treat your symptoms alongside. One of the best courses of treatment is using a step-by-step personalised treatment programme to address the cause of your pain for long term results. This can come in the form of strengthening rehabilitation exercises to reduce the overloading of certain muscles, and reducing overcompensation. Hands-on treatment is also a great way to treat symptoms of muscle tightness, over use and pain alongside your rehab. 
If these symptoms are sounding all too familiar or you’re planning on increasing your running speed, duration, or intensity over a period of time, then book an appointment HERE. Our Sports Therapists can perform an in-depth assessment to assess how your body is moving and help to provide maximum efficiency to prevent you from becoming injured. 
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