How to perform Achilles tendon massage
If you’re an athlete, professional or recreational, then you probably know that The Achilles tendon is one of the most vulnerable spots on your body. Some of the most common problems that people face with this tendon are Achilles tendonitis, tendinopathy, and ruptures, but luckily, each of these has suitable prevention and treatment methods.
In the case of Achilles tendonitis, there are a number of things that one should do in order to rehabilitate properly and as quickly as possible. One of the main aspects of recovery from this problem is Achilles tendon massage, and in this article, I will show you two different techniques. Also, you will learn about equipment that you need to have in case you’ve obtained this injury.
Achilles tendon sports massage
The following steps describe a standard-practice sports massage which is encountered by most folks recovering from tendonitis. It is simple to perform and effective in its desired outcome.
However, I have to give you a word of caution; before attempting the massage on yourself, consult a professional, and they will tell you if is safe for you to do. If the therapist happens to find some contraindications, this means that massaging the tendon could be potentially dangerous.
Step 1: Effleurage
As with most massages, this one too should start with an effleurage.
This technique starts by placing some oil on your hands and spreading it around the tissues that will be subject to massage, as well as the neighboring tissues (in this case the calf).
The purpose of this is to warm up the tissues and prepare them for the rest of the massage. Make sure that your leg is relaxed and placed comfortably.
Start by placing on hand over the other and stroke from the heel up to the knee. Once you reach the knee, separate the hands and run them down calf back to the heel.
Step 2: Mobilization
After the tissues have been warmed up properly, it is time to start mobilizing the tendon.
The transverse mobilization technique is done with the index finger and thumb of each hand. Apply transverse pressure on the Achilles tendon by alternating these fingers.
The aim of this step is to loosen the tendon.
Step 3: Stripping
Place your hands on the front part of the foot, close to the joint and using your thumbs press the tendon at the attachment point and stroke it about 10 cm up the heel, towards the calf.
Make sure to keep the pressure consistent and gradually increase it.
Step 4: Circular frictions
Apply pressure on the bottom part of the tendon with your index fingers and start moving them in a circular manner. Gradually, move up the tendon and repeat the same movement until you reach the calf muscles.
Do this for about 3 minutes.
Step 5: Effleurage
Finish the massage with effleurage to get the blood flowing in the leg and help remove any possible waste products.
Friction massage therapy
Those who are looking for a safe and very simple method of self-treatment might be interested in trying friction massage therapy. This is a relatively new method that is still in its ground works and is open to experimentation.
However, this doesn't make it dangerous to anyone who wishes to try it out. Here is the principle: friction massage therapy is founded on the principle of "use it or lose it," meaning that too much rest is just as bad for the tendons as too much work. Therefore, this technique aims to stimulate the tissues just enough so they don't remain dormant all the time. Moderate stimulation of the tendon will help move its fluids around and promote recovery.
Do know that, even though this method makes a lot of sense, there is no scientific data to support it, so my advice to you would be to try it out and see if it works.
Step 1: Rubbing the tissue
Using a finger, find the point on the Achilles where you feel the most tenderness.
Start gently rubbing the area and your moves should be perpendicular to the fibers of the tissue. Make sure to use very slight to moderate pressure, since strong pressure is not recommendable when doing self-treatment.
You should feel sharp pain, but it should be bearable. If the pain is too strong, it means that you are either pressing too hard or that the injury is too serious.
In cases of slight discomfort, keep rubbing, and after about two minutes it should subside. If it doesn’t go away, this should be a signal to stop and try again the next day.
Step 2: Increasing intensity
If the pain subsides, apply a bit more pressure on the area until you start to feel discomfort again. Do so for another 2 minutes. Ideally, the discomfort should disappear again, and then you can increase the intensity more and rub for another 2 minutes.
Step 3: Icing
Finally, ice the entire massage area for about a minute and a half, or until it goes numb.
Equipment to aid the recovery
In case you didn’t know – footwear matters, it matters a lot. This means that the right pair of shoes/sneakers can spare your tendons greatly and all you need to do is find the best walking shoes for Achilles tendonitis.
Now, the question remains: “How can shoes help?”
Proper footwear provides you with the right heel height, the right arch, and adequate firmness and cushioning. All of these factors are of paramount importance when talking about treating or relieving pain caused by tendonitis.
To choose the best possible shoes for your feet you can always consult a professional. Remember, it is very important that they fit perfectly so choose carefully.
Orthotics are great tools for healing from tendonitis. This category encompasses things like insoles, sleeves, and straps. The role of orthotics is to prevent over-pronation, take the strain off of your Achilles, and reduce the chance of greater damage (e.g., rupture). The relief provided by these items will provide the tendon with necessary rest and give it a chance to heal faster.
Now, choosing the best orthotics for Achilles tendonitis is a highly personalized task, meaning that you will need to find what works for your feet. My advice would be to see a professional and see what they have to say about it.
Avoid too much stretching, especially your calves since this is not good for your Achilles. In fact, if you've ever tried to stretch your tendons know that this is not possible because this tissue is not "stretchy." Achilles tendon lengthening is possible with a surgical procedure, but that’s a different story.
Massage your feet with a tennis ball. The reason for this is to loosen up the plantar fascia because it gets tight over time and potentially leads to a tendon injury. Just stand on the ball with one foot while keeping the other on the ground and roll it back and forth. The areas where you feel the most pain are the ones that will require the longest massage time.
Also, try massaging your calves with a foam roller. Make sure to roll the calves on all sides, not just the front.
Well, I've reached the end of today's article, and I hope that you found some useful and practical information that will help you on your road to recovery. Keep in mind that healing takes time and you’ll need to be patient with it. Finally, if you are diligent and smart when it comes to prevention, you will significantly decrease the risk for future injures.