Achilles felt stiff last night. How to prevent this?

Discussion in 'Health & Fitness' started by TimeToPlaySets, Mar 30, 2013.

  1. TimeToPlaySets

    TimeToPlaySets Rookie

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    I didn't pull it or anything, but it was just generally stiff. Right from the get go. Nothing too bad, but sort of noticeable. Dumb question, but does stretching before playing actually prevent this? (I find stretching to be vastly over-hyped with little evidence of benefit)
     
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  2. Relinquis

    Relinquis Hall of Fame

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    i find warming up helps me with my ankle. even if it's just jogging around the court a couple of times to get warm before i start hitting any balls.

    for me it's not the achilles, rather other tendons that I've hurt after rolling my ankle in the past.

    also, i find cycling, jogging/running and developing leg strength (lunges, squats, jumping squats, all with no additional weight) helps medium and long term. It's important to have strong thighs and calf muscles. also, losing weight helps with all your leg joints (ankle, knee, hip).

    Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor or physiotherapist.
     
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  3. mikeler

    mikeler G.O.A.T.

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    Stretch your calves before during and after play.
     
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  4. maxrenn

    maxrenn Hall of Fame

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    I sometimes get a stiff achilles on my front serving foot after playing, usually if I haven't stretched my calfs enough. Try bending the foot forward as if you were sitting on your leg with your foot under your bum, I find this can help, obviously before playing.
     
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  5. mikeler

    mikeler G.O.A.T.

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    If you have recently changed shoe brands/models, then consider using those shoes for other activities and finding something that does not bother your Achilles. Custom insoles work great for me.
     
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  6. Bobby Jr

    Bobby Jr Legend

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    You're right, it's sort of a dumb question - the answer is self-evident. Warming up properly is particularly useful for tendons - that entails warming up the area and appropriate stretching.

    Achilles tendons are prone to overuse stiffness as distinct from injuries - especially once you get into your 30s when tendons in almost everyone tend to lose their suppleness at a faster rate than muscles > hence why first-time Achilles injuries/issues usually start happening in the 30s/40s for most people.

    Doing a 10 minute walk/light run, some dynamic stretching and tennis-related movements prior to playing is a guaranteed way to massively reduce the chance of injury (and in-sport injury). Post tennis warm-down is also really effective against mitigating tendon stiffness, as are preventative exercises like eccentric calf raises/drops.
     
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  7. TimeToPlaySets

    TimeToPlaySets Rookie

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  8. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    I side with those who say that stretching before play (meaning static calf stretches) won't do anything to prevent soreness, but I have found that warming an area up will generally allow greater range of motion with less effort.

    My other advice is to go with shoes without heels as much as possible to naturally allow your foot greater range of movement and to allow the muscle to lengthen and be stretched naturally. Many people wear shoes with heels all the time and then find that the greater range of motion in athletic movement traumatizes the area.

    If there is a weakness, it also makes sense to do targeted exercises for the ankle and the rest of the leg. I had a severe ankle roll about a year ago and I still need to do exercises to regain full range of motion in that joint. I suggest doing weight lifting such as calf raises, squats, deadlifts, and lunges to strengthen that area and eventually work your way up to doing jumping exercises to strengthen the tendons and ligaments.
     
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  9. icarus180

    icarus180 New User

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    I do the pike stretch from the RW article you referenced and add a bent leg variation to target the soleus. I try to think to pull my front foot up as opposed to pushing my heel down. I also do some of the Pete Egoscue stuff which involve laying on the floor one leg straight out in front, the other leg bent at 90 degrees knee toward ceiling back of knee in my hands. I do foot circles: 15-20 clockwise, 15-20 counterclockwise, and then 15 where I use my calf muscles to pull my toes straight back then point my toes forward. Then I warm up as much as time will allow before I take the court, usually skipping and lunges.

    After tennis I do eccentric heel drops off of stairs or a bench (you can find this on youtube), and finish up with some pretty extreme stretches with my foot up against a wall or net post, both straight leg and bent.

    I've had serious problems with my Achilles in the past, so need to do a lot more prehab than most. I'm playing 5-6 days a week now without much discomfort anywhere. I wish I known about this stuff when I first came back to the game at 40, could have saved myself a lot of pain. Wish I'd also learned to listen to my body and rest instead of trying to play through significant discomfort. I count myself very, very lucky to have not ruptured my Achilles.
     
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  10. Topaz

    Topaz Legend

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    Foam roll your calves.
     
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  11. Thepowerofchoice

    Thepowerofchoice Semi-Pro

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  12. RogueFLIP

    RogueFLIP Semi-Pro

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    Tennis ball works too.

    Anything to break up restrictions in the soft tissue.

    Then doing some static stretches not just to the calves to legs in general.

    These should be done not before you play but in between matches.

    Right before play, like others have said, some sort of dynamic warm up; small bounces, ankle circles, light jogging...anything to get the body ready for the activites you're about to perform.
     
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  13. TimeToPlaySets

    TimeToPlaySets Rookie

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    I am already VERY active (4x a week) and do a variety of sports, bodyweight fitness and weights.
    I am in Crossfit caliber shape, with no excess pounds.

    But have now started getting these little foibles and pulls.
    This is part of moving into my 40s, I guess.

    I did walking lunges and that pike thing before my fitness class today. It's a start.
    I am going to make up some sort of general warm-up routine for all my fitness going forward.

    Is that rolling stick thing legitimate or just some placebo snake oil?
     
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  14. Chas Tennis

    Chas Tennis Hall of Fame

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    Have you searched for recent threads on Achilles Tendon , Plantar Fasciitis, Calf Injury? These are all connected and often are related to tight calves. Look at the lifestyle issues that make your calves tight.

    Also, understand the difference between tendinitis (with inflammation) and tendinosis (with defective healing).
     
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  15. Bobby Jr

    Bobby Jr Legend

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    You're entering the stage of life where your tendon flexibility and resilience degrades faster than for muscles. Nothing can prevent it but being aware of it in how you train train/prepare for sports is paramount.

    As I said above and adding to what others have said also - nothing prevents tendon injuries better than an appropriate warm-up routine. As I said, I find walking for 10 mins a good start and then doing some exercises/stretches. I generally do this before I even go to the tennis courts if they're less than about 15 mins away. Doing the calf roller in particular is a godsend. I just use a regular rolling pin - you don't have to go buy expensive equipment to test the theory.

    Make a note also to stretch your thighs, hip flexors and torso too - they all relate to your overall movement. Tight hip flexors for example will increase your chance of suffering a calf injury.
     
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  16. TimeToPlaySets

    TimeToPlaySets Rookie

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    I have been trying to "overextend" my foot by pointing it up towards my shins. This stretches the Achilles. I do this by going into a Mountain Climber type of crouch. This should help warm up and activate the Achilles, right?
     
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  17. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

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    Sounds like you may actually be over-training. As you age, your recovery time will increase. So to prevent injuries much more thought has to be given to recovery/nutrition/rest. It is possible that you strained your tendon doing something else and it just hasn't healed up yet.

    People swear by the rolling stick. I had deep muscle massage (very painful) on my shoulder and back after screwing it up with poor service form and too many serves. I believe the massage gave increased range of motion and faster recovery by breaking up the scar tissue. I've heard that rolling does the same sort of thing. Sounds worth a try.
     
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  18. TimeToPlaySets

    TimeToPlaySets Rookie

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    I still don't see how massaging your calf helps your Achilles, but here is what I will do to warm-up:
    1) Walking lunges.
    2) Stretching my Achilles via that dolphin move.
    3) Calf massaging.
     
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  19. Bobby Jr

    Bobby Jr Legend

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    Because tighter muscles mean the associated tendon will be under increased tension and sooner.

    Tendon have only say 5% give in them, but muscles have more like 30-50%, even more sometimes. Think about it - tendons need to be strong and have low stretch potential, otherwise they would be poor at their intended function which is joining a muscle to something.

    When your muscles are tighter they have less give in them and this adds to the stresses going onto the tendon. Massages and stretching help keep your calves supple, flexible and strong - which is the most effective, practical way to minimise the chance of Achilles tendon injuries whether acute or chronic.

    Calf muscles are particularly prone to tightness because, even when not putting them under sporting-type stress, they don't get much rest compared to most muscles in your body. Even sitting at your desk they'll usually be under mild tension, same with driving your car or sitting on a bar stool.

    It's one thing you don't seem to appreciate fully yet going by your posts but if you don't change your routine to include appropriate stretching, especially at your age, you are massively increasing the chance you will suffer a debilitating lesson one day. Repeating something I said above, tendons degrade faster with age than muscle - ignore that at your own peril. Warm up, warm down and don't think because you didn't notice any difference the first time that stretching isn't doing anything. It is.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2013
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  20. TimeToPlaySets

    TimeToPlaySets Rookie

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    Would you add anything more to my initial list? Someone made the distinction above that normal motion like jumping jacks does not "hyper-extend" certain muscles, so it's not really that useful. This is why I will explicitly stretch my Achilles to the full range of motion. What else?

    1) Walking lunges.
    2) Stretching my Achilles via that dolphin move.
    3) Calf massaging.
     
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  21. Bobby Jr

    Bobby Jr Legend

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    Pre/post sporting activites could also include, probably ahead of lunges and the dolphin move:

    - calf rolling pin (just use the rolling pin out of your kitchen if you like)
    - eccentric calf raises/drops (focus on doing the drop part one-legged and the raise part two legged - the objective is to lengthen the muscle and tendon so the range of motion remains/is improved)

    Post activity the two classic standning calf stretches for the soleus/gastroc are not to be missed either.

    I am a big proponent of leg massages but realise not everyone can do them. The rolling pin and other self-massages are really useful. When you first try it you'll be surprised how many little niggling tight spots there are in your calf.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2013
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  22. RogueFLIP

    RogueFLIP Semi-Pro

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    Just try to mimic the motions your body will be doing in a match, albeit in a slower, more controlled manner.

    For the legs, you can do small squat jumps or just bounces off your toes.
    Light jog forward, backwards, side to side. I use the lines of the court to visually cue myself to change directions.

    I personally don't like doing static stretches during my warm up unless during my dynamic warmup I feel like I need it.
     
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