The Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the body, but unfortunately the aging tendon undergoes various changes that put it at risk for injury. Some changes that increase with age include decreased collagen density, decreased glycosaminoglycans and water content, decreased tensil strength and increased stiffness.
A study of 891 ruptured tendons in humans revealed 97% of the changes were degenerative in nature and about 50% of them were Achilles tendons.
How can you keep your Achilles tendons healthy?
Know your risk factors associated with Achilles tendon disorders and schedule an appointment for a physical therapy evaluation to determine the likelihood of your developing an Achilles tendon disorder and to learn research proven treatment strategies to help strengthen and avoid surgical repair.
Risk factors include:
-abnormal dorsiflexion (increased or decreased ability to flex foot)
-abnormal subtalar range of motion (increased or decrease foot joint mobility- pronation or supination)
-decreased plantar flexion strength
-abnormal tendon structure
-medical conditions associated with Achilles tendon disorders: diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol
Studies have shown and proven that eccentric exercises with a focus on slow and controlled movement is an extremely effective nonsurgical method to treating Achilles tendonitis/tendonosis. Below are some helpful exercises for anyone dealing with symptoms or has been diagnosed with this very common injury.
Eccentric Heel Drop on Step: (Achilles Tendon Strengthening)
Begin this exercise with both feet in a neutral position with only the forefoot on the step
Perform a toe raise with both feet
Remove the unaffected leg from the step and slowly lower the affected back to neutral, keeping knee straight
Perform 3 x 15 repetitions twice a day. This is maintained every day for 12 weeks.
As soon as 2 x 15 repetitions twice a day can be done pain free, the load should be increased.
Progression: Loaded Eccentric Heel Drop on Step–now add weighted dumbells to increase difficulty and to build strength