Often the forums I moderate will give me ideas for what to post here on the blog, and today is one of those times. A person wrote to me that he is having chronic pain in the area underneath his Achilles tendon and that all the experts are telling him to stretch, but it only makes him feel worse. He’s at a loss because he can’t exercise and his frustration increases because nothing is working to get him better.
It always amazes me how experts that should know better still recommend stretching without giving any thought to spasms tying the muscle fibers in knots. It’s so logical that if you tied a length a line into knots and then tried to stretch it back to the original length that you would make the knots tighter and overstretch the fibers outside of the knots. Plus, as you stretch this shortened “rope” it would cause an even additional strain on the insertion points at the two ends, just as a muscle does to the two insertion points on the bone.
Have you been to my website? There is so much information about repetitive strain injuries and information about the logic of the body. If you haven’t done so already, I suggest you also read the sections titled “Muscles and Pain” and “What’s Happening Exactly.”
Here’s my response to this “virtual client:”
The muscles that are most likely causing your situation are the flexor digitorum longus and flexor hallicus longus (you can do an internet search and look at graphics of the two muscles) because they are underneath your Achilles tendon and since they pull your toes down toward the floor (or curl them if you aren’t standing on your foot), if the muscles are shortened by spasms and you bend your toes up (for example, pushing off from a step or standing on your toes)you will be stretching these muscles.
I suggest you use your fingertips and apply direct pressure to the muscles, searching for the “hot spot” which will be the spasm/s causing the muscles to shorten. Of course, as you realize, you also have spasms in your calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) and those are also simple to self-treat and release by simply applying direct pressure to the knots in the muscles. Releasing those muscles will take the pressure off your Achilles tendon.
I’m happy to say that I’ve teamed up with some wonderful people within the past few weeks and with their help I’ll finally be getting out to teach some self-treatment clinics. Right now they are only planned for North Carolina, but we’re putting together one for Ft. Worth, TX, and Naples, FL. If I can find someone to help me locate space and spread the word, I’d like to do one in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas in February. In you can help in any way, or if you’d like a clinic in your area, please let me know.
Wishing you well,