Achilles Heel – A Message from the Gods?

The legend of Achilles proclaims that he was submerged at birth into the river Styx by his mother
Thetis, attempting to use the powers of the water to render him invincible in battle. This worked for
most of his life, but it also brought about his undoing … the god Apollo witnessed Thetis holding her
son by the heel and saw this area was not touched by the water from the river Styx. This allowed
Apollo to find Achilles’ weakness – his heel! Hence how the term achilles heel became a reference
to one’s point of weakness!

How is this relevant to Achilles tendon issues?? Mostly it isn’t, but it’s a great story!

The Achilles tendon is a strong robust cable-like structure that attaches the muscles of the calf – the
soleus and gastrocnemius – to the heel (calcaneal) bone and brings about the motion of pointing our
toes or rising onto the balls of our feet when our feet are planted on the ground – going up on your
tippy toes!

A tendinopathy or tendonitis occurs when the structure, and therefore the strength of the tendon, is
diminished. This is usually because of an acute injury or more commonly an overloading of the
tendon due to increased workload. For example, a return to running or exercise, a change of shoes
or a strenuous activity such as an impromptu bush or beach walk on soft sand or moving house.

The increased load or injury leads to a disorganisation of the fibres within the tendon, much like the
fraying or wear that can occur to a cable and its individual strands over time.

The good news is that these changes are reversible and respond well to the appropriate
management. The bad news is that it can take some time and effort, and as such, 100 days is often
given as the recovery time for tendon injuries.

Appropriate management consists of manual therapy and advice to elevate initial symptoms and
then strengthening exercises to drive the adaptation of the calf musculotendinous complex, to
better deal with the daily activities and increased load that you want to put through it.

So unlike Achilles this does not have to be your undoing and a better understanding of your injury
and appropriate physiotherapy and exercise direction can get you back on the battlefield of life and
have you outperforming the Greek gods!

If you need help with pain or immobility to get you moving again, or need a tailored exercise program, book in for your treatment now with one of our exercise, physio, or pain specialists via 1300 012 273 or head to our website and book a session at your nearest clinic.