Stretching and Pain Tolerance

By | August 20, 2013

Before I get to the subject of this post I just wanted to mention that, in the short time since I started this blog, I’ve received a number of emails from readers who have told me about their injuries. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the support! This injury is a *big deal* to me. Why? Because I wasted the majority of my life via inactivity. After not getting off the couch (or computer chair/desk) for decades, I lost weight and then became very active in sports and just general daily life. Things like walking for enjoyment, playing soccer with my kids, etc. were a joy. They still are. But now they are accompanied by pain. So your words of encouragement are greatly appreciated as I work my way through this injury again.

Stretching and Pain

So yesterday I really stretched out the tendon. It is still pretty darn painful when stretched. My mobility is limited but getting better – I can tell just from the angle of the straight-legged gastroc stretches that I’ve been doing. But when compared to the uninjured leg, I can only stretch it to about half the distance without major pain and fear or tearing it. But here’s the thing – am I just being a wuss? I don’t know. I get emails from people telling me they have Insertional Achilles Tendonitis (IAT) but it usually goes something like this, “Read your blog! Great stuff. I’m suffering with this myself. Sometimes after I run 10 miles it kinda hurts!”

Seriously?┬áIf I ran one single stride, and trust me I’ve inadvertently done it while trying to demonstrate a soccer drill or movement to my son’s team, I get a jarring pain shooting up my leg. That tells me there is no way I should be running on it yet.

But it is time to start pushing it a bit and see how it reacts. I won’t be running for quite a while I’m sure, but I do think that stretching it out via the elliptical machine and/or cycling is probably my best bet. Yesterday, I went to the gym and did the following:

  1. 10 minutes on elliptical trainer – this was surprisingly more painful than I expected. Probably a 4 out of 10 on the infamous “pain scale”
  2. Straight-legged gastroc stretches – alternated legs; again, pretty painful. But, unlike the elliptical, I was able to adjust the stretch some to reduce the pain.
  3. One set of 15 flat-ground eccentric heel drops – I did these extra slow, knowing I’d only do one set that day. By “extra slow” I mean it took me a minimum of 10 seconds to complete the “drop”
  4. 20 minutes on elliptical trainer
  5. Straight-legged gastroc stretches

The pain varied from between 2 and 4 throughout, and never really let up. Afterwards I went to the locker room and did some quick ART on my tendon. Painful at first but not as bad as the other day, and noticed that the “bumps” were smaller than the other day. So progress I guess.


After reflecting on yesterday, I think I’m going to try this approach later today at the gym:

  1. 10 minute warm-up on stationary bike
  2. Foam roll my calves
  3. Straight-legged gastroc stretch
  4. Some additional stretching to my hamstrings and calves
  5. 2 or 3 sets eccentric heel drops, this time possibly weighted.
  6. 20 minutes (or 30 if it feels good) on the elliptica
  7. Straight-legged gastroc stretch
  8. Foam roll calves

I have my daughter’s soccer practice tonight. I’m not a coach so I could just sit around watching, but my son is there with me so we usually kick the ball around. I keep to using my uninjured foot for kicking, but am on my feet for 1.5 hours regardless. I’ll post the status tomorrow to let you know how it goes. As always, wish me luck! : )