What Is That Pain In Your Achilles – could depend on your age
First off, let me be clear – – if you are having pain in your Achilles, get it checked out by a good sport med doctor, sport physio or whomever you trust to help you keep your body more or less in one piece so you can enjoy your sports.
There are lots of reasons you could be having that pain and these are just two of them.
Achilles pain in adults often has a different cause than Achilles pain in teenagers.
In both cases, your Achilles area is under too much chronic strain and it is getting irritated and inflamed. But why? And what are the typical outcomes?
There is an underlying reason the Achilles is under chronic strain.
Maybe the muscles in the chain from your back extensors, along your hamstrings and into your calves is too tight for some reason.
Maybe because you sit too much and that has inhibited your glutes, so your body adapts by over using your hamstrings as a hip extensor.
Maybe you decided to finally run that half marathon and you have built your mileage up too quickly.
Maybe you play old-boys basketball once per week and that’s all – no warm up, no looking after your body the other six days of the week, just going out and smashing yourself once per week.
Whatever the reason it is important that you look after it, but here’s why you might not…
The pain isn’t SOOO bad that you can’t stand it. In fact it feels a little better after the first 5-10 minutes and then you are pretty good. It stiffens up a bit afterward, but nothing too bad, so you ignore it.
And what’s wrong with that? – you don’t need to waste the doctor or physio’s time with something that isn’t really that bad do you?
Yeah… you should and here’s why…
You likely have some sort of chronic tendonosus which is an irritation of the tendon. So as part of the response to that irritation and inflammation, your body sets out to repair that area. When it repairs the area it makes it stronger – – – but not necessarily as elastic as it was before.
Now, compound this process over months and even years. Now what you have is an Achilles tendon that is less elastic and more plastic.
If you rapidly stretch elastic it stretches right?
If you rapidly stretch plastic sometimes it snaps right?
And that is when you get the 30, 40, 50 something year old weekend warrior who is out shooting some hoops, playing a little road hockey or just sprinting across the street so he doesn’t get hit by a bus, when he feels someone kick him in the back of the leg. He might even hear a ‘snap’ sound. OUUUCH!
What the heck was that and where is the guy who kicked me?
Congratulations, you have just ruptured your Achilles tendon because you did not look after your tissue when that pain was just a whisper. Now it is a scream and your next step should be a phone call to the Fowler Kennedy to see one of the Sport Med docs ASAP. Sorry.
Again, that Achilles tendon is under chronic strain for some reason. Often in kids who are growing it is because they are growing. Simple enough right?
When kids grow, they grow from their bones, not their muscles.
So, a kid might be a nice little supple leopard in June, but come August, he or she might be tight as a drum because the 4’9” child is not 5’0” and the muscles that were just perfect two months ago are now three inches too short.
Those muscles are going to pull on their attachments. For the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles of the calf, that is going to be the heel bone where the Achilles attaches. They will may feel the pain in the attachment or on the heel bone (calcaneus) or more in the Achilles.
If they are feeling it at the calcaneus, they may get diagnosed with “Sever’s Disease” which is a terrible name for what is really and inconvenience. It really isn’t a “Disease” – I am thinking Sever may have had a flare for the dramatic – ha ha – but an irritation where the Achilles attaches to the calcaneus.
The calcaneus is developing too, so it is not yet fully formed cortical bone, it still has an open growth plate too – right near the end where the Achilles attaches as luck would have it.
So that bony area, that is still a little spongy, gets yanked on like crazy and gets inflamed.
It is made worse with running and jumping. Wearing stiff, flat shoes like soccer cleats can make it worse.
The good news…
The good news is that much like Osgoode-Schlatter’s (it’s cousin in the knee), it does not cause permanent damage to the foot or ankle joint. My best advice is to do some myofascial release on, and stretch the calves and hamstrings to try and reduce some of the tension in that area.
Warm up well before sports, so the muscle has a chance to get a warmed up and loosened up before you start running, jumping and cutting.
Ice after sport and if the pain is getting really bad, take a day or two off.
So there are some things to consider when you are experiencing Achilles pain.
Remember, don’t assume you know what it is, just because it sounds like one of the ailments mentioned above. Get it checked out first and see what your health care provider has to say.