I Guess I’m Functionally Healed

By | October 18, 2013
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I want to emphasize the word ‘functionally’ in the title. What I mean by that is, for the past couple of weeks, the achilles has not held me back in any way. I’ve even done some sprinting (not full out sprinting in the traditional sense, but more ‘bursts’ of speed while playing soccer with my kids). I say ‘functionally healed’ and not just ‘healed’ because I still have light soreness in the morning when I first step out of bed, and when I do ‘sprint’ I definitely feel some soreness at first. I just have to ‘work it out’ and then the soreness is gone.

Based on the last time I went through the rehab process, my guess is I could accelerate getting rid of the soreness by training for a 5k. I occasionally think about doing it, and have probably written on this blog that I was going to do it, but I haven’t bothered yet. I’m focused on weight training and just having fun outdoors with my kids during their soccer practices, etc.

Speaking of my weight training – it’s been going really well. I do a M-W-F full body weight training routine that focuses on compound lifts (barbell back squats, chest presses, rows, then some iso exercises). Part of that routine is a 2×10 weighted set of eccentric heel drops. I’ve been using a 25 lb. plate or dumbbell, and the last couple of weeks I’ve been doing them on a stairwell step at my gym, going below parallel on the drop. I haven’t been putting full weight on it but will start that soon I think. I just go by how it feels.

So that’s the update – things are good…I guess. But really, I was kind of hoping that I’d be fully healed by now. But I’m not complaining – I’ll take being functionally healed for now!

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  • stormchaser1983

    i have your exact same problem i hope i heal as well as u too!

    • mark2741

      I’ve been pain free for months now. I still do weighted heel raises (going below parallel now) a couple of times per week, and I stretch 3x per week. So far so good, but I admittedly have not tried any sports. This Spring/Summer I will likely run in a few 5k races but that’s different from playing sports, which would be much riskier.

      • stormchaser1983

        I also have the exact same heel spurs are you, on both feet. I have been having tightness in my achilles and calves for a while, I put it down to conditioning and it never really botherered me much at all; I could run and jump with no pain. Then one day I ran barefeet and that pushed me over the edge. Now I am unable to stand for more than 20 min and my heel cannot take the pressure. Walking is bearable. The doc looked at the x ray and said the heel spurs can be treated surgically but I am too young for that. I ll be happy to give up running if i know I can atleast walk pain free. Do you think workouts like yoga and spinning, elliptical are light on the achilles? This is a GREAT blog by the way and really my biggest inspiration and hope now. Its been a week and I am in walking boots.

        • mark2741

          Definitely do the eccentric heel drops. Is your doc saying you have insertional achilles tendonitis/tendonosis (the key word being “insertional”)? If so, then definitely don’t go below parallel on the ‘drop’ portion of the eccentrics until you have done them for a couple of months (the research paper says 3 months) and are pain free.

          I would avoid surgery man. At all costs. But that’s just me.

          As far as running – I ran a 5k last year no problem, and I’m a horrible runner/have horrible stride/gait/whatever. I stretched the calves out a lot before, and of course I trained a month or so for it, and it was fine. I re-injured it when I started playing soccer and eventually had to play an indoor game in 100+ degree heat. My doc said that pushed my muscles to weakness and then the achilles got re-aggravated.

          I am confident that I could probably run often if I wanted to, and do plan on doing some 5k races this summer just for fun, but I think soccer or basketball would be risking re-aggravating it. I will likely try at some point though, and will post if I re-injure (or not!) as a result.

          Thanks for the kind comments on the blog. I set it up as a source of inspiration for myself while going through this injury – I know it can be quite depressing. Good luck, and report back on your progress!


          • stormchaser1983

            Your journey is very encouraging, I hope I am as lucky! I definitely want to avoid the injury. I think I caught it early; I dont have any swelling and apart from the tendon being tight, I dont think there is any strucutral damage yet as I am still young. However, those bone spurs were definitely worrisome…..I hope it heals.

          • stormchaser1983

            I have one last question. Did you find a tradeoff between putting off calf strengthening/stretching vs atrophy. If so, how long before you started doing those exercises?

          • mark2741

            I started doing them probably a bit too early – after 1.5 or 2 months of doing the eccentric heel drops. The eccentric heel drops are definitely strengtheners (though that’s not their intended application here). I didn’t see any negative effects from not stretching during that time. Ever since then I’ve been stretching at least twice a week, often 3x per week as I lift weights 2 or 3x per week and my routine is basically:
            1. 10 minute light warm-up on a cardio machine
            2. 5 minutes of stretching (gastroc/wall stretch, and a few others)
            3. Sometimes I’ll foam roll but mainly because I’m now focusing on my upper-body/shoulder immobility
            4. Weightlifting (I do a full-body routine and, at the end, I throw in a couple of sets of weighted calf raises on a step (so that I do now go below parallel on the drop portion).

            Keep in mind – I had/have *insertional* achilles tendonosis. If your problem is not at the insertion point then eccentric heel drops are probably not the right protocol for you, and regular calf raises and stretching is the commonly prescribed and likely, based on the research, the best way to go. Insertional vs non-insertional tendonitis is key – you have to know which you have before you can fix it.

          • stormchaser1983

            One thing that I have noticed that definitely helps is green tea + turmeric and turmeric + cayenne + ginger tea, the former in the morning and the latter in the evening. Drinking these teas hot with those spices has helped a lot in reducing the inflammation and I think quickening the healing process. Might be a placebo effect, but it seems to help….

          • Ian

            Cissus Quadrangularis (an Asian plant) is a very powerful anti-inflammatory and pain killer which could be useful for achilles injuries. I’ve injured mine on and off for about ten years, and took cissus for the first time a few months ago after I’d done something to my ankle ligaments and strained my achilles again, and was limping quite a bit the next day. With cissus, it only took 36 hours before it felt relatively normal again, whereas usually it would have taken way longer to improve. The plant apparently has separate powerful anti-inflammatory and pain killing compounds. Some of the compounds are a kind of natural steroid.

            It also allegedly increases the rate of collagen production in your body, so I’m using it at the moment in conjunction with doing eccentric heel drops in the hope that my achilles lays down new collagen faster.

          • Greg

            Mark – After eight months of relatively inconsistent results trying everything with this injury, I have recently begun following a protocol very similar to your own for the same insertional issue and believe this is the right track for me as well (my x-ray appears to be a bit like your own too). Do the weighted eccentric drops (on flat ground) often give you some degree of extra pain the next day? If so, do you back off? I am trying to determine how much pain is typical. Like you, I feel like the stretching is really making a difference but obviously would like to accelerate the healing with the heel drops. I appreciate your blog and am happy to hear that you are better. It definitely gives me hope!

          • mark2741

            Hi Greg,

            I have been fully healed for quite some time now. By “fully healed” I mean I have had zero pain or soreness. I’ve been playing squash 3x per week (sometimes more) at full speed, and since I’m a not-very-good squash player that means lots of sprints at full speed, with lots of cuts/turns and stretching. I also got called to play a soccer match a couple of weeks ago and no issues whatsoever. Because of the squash playing I haven’t bothered to do any achilles-specific exercises for months. I figure that the squash adequately stretches my achilles out! I do, usually but not always, try to do some quick static stretches after playing.

            When I first started playing squash again, in the early Spring of last year, I did experience slight soreness the following morning after playing, and it would go away shortly after getting out of bed and walking so no big deal. I stuck with it and after a couple of weeks that stopped happening. I’ve not had any achilles pain/soreness in a long time now.

            Now to answer your questions as best I can –

            I do recall there was some extra pain the next morning after starting the heel drop protocol. Not a lot more though. I wish I could answer more descriptively but it’s been so long now I don’t remember. You may want to try doing the heel drops every other day instead of every day. And see if the pain goes away after the rest day? Just a thought. If it were me I would push through it a little bit and see after a week if any positive result comes. If not then I’d definitely back off some and try every other day.

          • Greg

            Thanks for the feedback, Mark. I do think I will tinker with the frequency but stick with the regimen.

          • Guest

            Thanks for the feedback, Mark. I do think I will tinker with the frequency but stick to the regimen.