It happens to everyone who exercises regularly – injury. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been feeling increased stiffness and pain in my right Achilles Tendon. Like many runners, I just put it down to fatigue and my body adapting to an increased training load. I’d started moving from a day on/day off cycle to a two days on/one day off cycle.
But the pain and stiffness increased to the point where I realised i needed some sort of medical intervention.
Interestingly, a week or so before the pain became acute, I read this article on the link between Achilles pain and poor glute control. But I didn’t put together that I had poor glute strength.
Cutting to the chase, I looked online for a local physiotherapist with a speciality in sports injury management and found Pure Physio in Melbourne. They had an appointment time that suited so i walked up the street for an assessment and treatment.
The initial visit went for an hour where my physio, Roy, carried out a detailed history and physical examination. He also worked through some sore spots and stiffness through my entire right leg. But for me, the really bad news was that I had to limit my running to no more than 5km with a 200 metre walk at the end of each kilometre.
The next week, I headed back but this had two appointments on the same day. The first appointment was with Jac, an exercise physiologist who put me on a treadmill to examine my form and look at what my muscles were doing. When i watched the video back after my short jog I was astounded by what I saw.
To compensate for the gluteal weakness I was striding out a long way with my right leg and my hip was dropping. Seeing that on video was quite a rude awakening. The thrust of my leg forward was acting as a brake, seriously hindering my efficiency.
Jac now has me carrying out daily exercises to strengthen the entire muscle chain down my leg. The key exercises are two legged and one legged calf raises, single leg squats and reverse lunges.
As a result of the video, I’ve started modifying my running style. Incredibly, even though i’m walking for about 800 metres of every five kilometres, I’m actually completing 5km faster than when I was injured and pushing through the pain. Just the act of keeping my legs under my my body and not thrusting forward to compensate for my weak glute has made a huge difference. And this is while maintaining the same average heart rate while I’m running.
Two weeks after the treatment regime commenced and my Achilles is much more comfortable. It’s not stiff in the mornings and the pain has pretty much gone. My physiotherapists have allowed me to add one more run into my week although I’m still seeing them weekly for now until the acute injury recovery is complete.