Achilles Tendonitis/Tendinopathy and Needling

Achilles pain. You can’t live with it and you can’t live with it. Can needling help? The obvious answer is yes, but there is more as well.

There appears to be sufficient data to support the use of needling for achilles tendon problems . Perhaps it is the “reorganization” of collagen that makes it effective or a blood flow/vascularization phenomenon. The mechanism probably has something to do with pain and the reticular formation sending information down the cord via the lateral cell column (intermediolateral cell nucleus) or pain (nociceptive) afferents sending a collateral in the spinal cord to the dysfunctional muscle, affecting the alpha receptors and causing vasodilation. 

Loss of ankle dorsiflexion is a common factor that seems to contribute to achilles tendinopathies . It would seem that improving ankle rocker would be most helpful. In at least one study, needling restored ankle function and in another it improved strength. 

And don’t forget to go north of the lower leg/foot/ankle complex. The gluteus medius can many times the culprit as well. During running, the gluteus medius usually fires before heel strike, most likely to stabilize the hip and the pelvis. In runners with Achilles Tendonitis, its firing is delayed which may affect the kinematics of knee and ankle resulting in rear foot inversion. Perhaps the delayed action of the gluteus medius allows an adductory moment of the pelvis, moving the center of gravity medially. This could conceivably place additional stress on the achilles tendon (via the lateral gastroc) to create more eversion of the foot from midstance onward.

Similarly, in runners with achilles tendoinopathy, the gluteus maximus does not fire as long and activation is delayed. The glute max should be the primary hip extensor and decreased hip extension might be compensated by an increased ankle plantarflexion which could potentially increase the load on the Achilles tendon. 

So, in short, yes, needling will probably help, for these reasons and probably many more. Make sure to needle all the dysfunctional muscles up the chain, beginning at the foot and moving rostrally.

Effectiveness of Acupuncture Therapies to Manage Musculoskeletal Disorders of the Extremities: A Systematic Review. Cox J, Varatharajan S, Côté P, Optima Collaboration. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2016 Jun;46(6):409-29. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2016.6270. Epub 2016 Apr 26

Acupuncture’s role in tendinopathy: new possibilities. Speed C. Acupunct Med. 2015 Feb;33(1):7-8. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2014-010746. Epub 2015 Jan 9.

The effect of electroacupuncture on tendon repair in a rat Achilles tendon rupture model.  Inoue M, Nakajima M, Oi Y, Hojo T, Itoi M, Kitakoji H. Acupunct Med. 2015 Feb;33(1):58-64. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2014-010611. Epub 2014 Oct 21.

KIishmishian B, Selfe J, Richards J A Historical Review of Acupuncture to the Achilles Tendon and the development of a standardized protocol for its use Journal of the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherpists Spring 2012,  69-78

Acupuncture for chronic Achilles tendnopathy: a randomized controlled study. Zhang BM1, Zhong LW, Xu SW, Jiang HR, Shen J. Chin J Integr Med. 2013 Dec;19(12):900-4. doi: 10.1007/s11655-012-1218-4. Epub 2012 Dec 21.

The effect of dry needling and treadmill running on inducing pathological changes in rat Achilles tendon. Kim BS, Joo YC, Choi BH, Kim KH, Kang JS, Park SR. Connect Tissue Res. 2015 Nov;56(6):452-60. doi: 10.3109/03008207.2015.1052876. Epub 2015 Jul 29.

Tendon needling for treatment of tendinopathy: A systematic review.
Krey D, Borchers J, McCamey K. Phys Sportsmed. 2015 Feb;43(1):80-6. doi: 10.1080/00913847.2015.1004296. Epub 2015 Jan 22. Review.

Acupuncture increases the diameter and reorganisation of collagen fibrils during rat tendonhealing.
de Almeida Mdos S, de Freitas KM, Oliveira LP, Vieira CP, Guerra Fda R, Dolder MA, Pimentel ER. Acupunct Med. 2015 Feb;33(1):51-7. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2014-010548. Epub 2014 Aug 19.

Electroacupuncture increases the concentration and organization of collagen in a tendon healing model in rats.
de Almeida Mdos S, de Aro AA, Guerra Fda R, Vieira CP, de Campos Vidal B, Rosa Pimentel E. Connect Tissue Res. 2012;53(6):542-7. doi: 10.3109/03008207.2012.710671. Epub 2012 Aug 14.

Changes in blood circulation of the contralateral Achilles tendon during and after acupunctureand heating.Kubo K, Yajima H, Takayama M, Ikebukuro T, Mizoguchi H, Takakura N. Int J Sports Med. 2011 Oct;32(10):807-13. doi: 10.1055/s-0031-1277213. Epub 2011 May 26.

Microcirculatory effects of acupuncture and hyperthermia on Achilles tendon microcirculation. Kraemer R, Vogt PM, Knobloch K.
Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 Jul;109(5):1007-8. doi: 10.1007/s00421-010-1442-6. Epub 2010 Mar 28.

Effects of acupuncture and heating on blood volume and oxygen saturation of human Achilles tendon in vivo. Kubo K, Yajima H, Takayama M, Ikebukuro T, Mizoguchi H, Takakura N. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 Jun;109(3):545-50. doi: 10.1007/s00421-010-1368-z. Epub 2010 Feb 6.

 Insertional achilles tendinopathy associated with altered transverse compressive and axial tensile strain during ankle dorsiflexion. Chimenti RL, Bucklin M, Kelly M, Ketz J, Flemister AS, Richards MS, Buckley MR.
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Forefoot and rearfoot contributions to the lunge position in individuals with and without insertionalAchilles tendinopathy. Chimenti RL, Forenza A, Previte E, Tome J, Nawoczenski DA.Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2016 Jul;36:40-5. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2016.05.007. Epub 2016 May 11.

Ankle Power and Endurance Outcomes Following Isolated Gastrocnemius Recession for AchillesTendinopathy. Nawoczenski DA, DiLiberto FE, Cantor MS, Tome JM, DiGiovanni BF. Foot Ankle Int. 2016 Mar 17. pii: 1071100716638128. [Epub ahead of print]

 In vivo quantification of the shear modulus of the human Achilles tendon during passive loading using shear wave dispersion analysis.
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Changes of gait parameters and lower limb dynamics in recreational runners with achillestendinopathy. Kim S, Yu J. J Sports Sci Med. 2015 May 8;14(2):284-9. eCollection 2015 Jun.

Gastrocnemius recession for foot and ankle conditions in adults: Evidence-based recommendations. Cychosz CC, Phisitkul P, Belatti DA, Glazebrook MA, DiGiovanni CW. Foot Ankle Surg. 2015 Jun;21(2):77-85. doi: 10.1016/j.fas.2015.02.001. Epub 2015 Feb 26. Review.

Limited ankle dorsiflexion increases the risk for mid-portion Achilles tendinopathy in infantry recruits: a prospective cohort study. Rabin A, Kozol Z, Finestone AS. J Foot Ankle Res. 2014 Nov 18;7(1):48. doi: 10.1186/s13047-014-0048-3. eCollection 2014.

Perry J. Gait Analysis: Normal and Pathological Function. Thorofare, NJ: Slack 1992.

Chan YY, Mok KM, Yung PSh, Chan KM. Sports Med Arthrosc Rehabil Ther Technol. 2009 Jul 30;1:14. doi: 10.1186/1758-2555-1-14.

Bilateral effects of 6 weeks’ unilateral acupuncture and electroacupuncture on ankle dorsiflexors muscle strength: a pilot study. Zhou S, Huang LP, Liu J, Yu JH, Tian Q, Cao LJ. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2012 Jan;93(1):50-5. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2011.08.010. Epub 2011 Nov 8.

Franettovich Smith MM1, Honeywill C, Wyndow N, Crossley KM, Creaby MW. : Neuromotor control of gluteal muscles in runners with achilles tendinopathy.
Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2014 Mar;46(3):594-9.

and what have we been saying about loss of ankle rocker and achilles tendon problems for years now?

Here is a FREE, FULL TEXT article talking all about it

“A more limited ankle Dorsi Flexion ROM as measured in Non Weight Bearing with the knee bent increases the risk of developing Achilles Tendinopathy among military recruits taking part in intensive physical training.”

J Foot Ankle Res. 2014 Nov 18;7(1):48. doi: 10.1186/s13047-014-0048-3. eCollection 2014.Limited ankle dorsiflexion increases the risk for mid-portion Achilles tendinopathy in infantry recruits: a prospective cohort study.Rabin A1, Kozol Z, Finestone AS.

link to full text: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4243387/

Achilles Tendonitis

The motion needs to occur somewhere…Make sure you look at the whole picture

Since the knee was bent, perhaps we should be looking at the soleus? And the talo crural articulation?

“A more limited ankle Dorsi Flexion Range Of Motion as measured in Non Weight Bearing with the knee bent increases the risk of developing Achilles Tendonitis among military recruits taking part in intensive physical training.”

J Foot Ankle Res. 2014 Nov 18;7(1):48. doi: 10.1186/s13047-014-0048-3. eCollection 2014.
Limited ankle dorsiflexion increases the risk for mid-portion Achilles tendinopathy in infantry recruits: a prospective cohort study.
Rabin A1, Kozol Z1, Finestone AS2.

The mighty Gluteus Medius, in all its glory!

Perhaps the delayed action of the gluteus medius allows an adductory moment of the pelvis, moving the center of gravity medially. This could conceivably place additional stress on the achilles tendon  (via the lateral gastroc) to create more eversion of the foot from midstance on

“The results of the study demonstrate altered neuromuscular control of the GMED and GMED in runners with Achilles Tendonitis. During running, GMED typically activates before heel strike so as to stabilize the hip and the pelvis. In runners with Achilles Tendonitis, GMED is activated with a delay, which consequently might affect the kinematics of knee and ankle resulting in rear foot inversion. Similarly, GMAX is activated with a delay and for a shorter duration in runners with Achilles Tendonitis. GMAX is the primary hip extensor and via a kinetic chain, a decreased hip extension moment might be compensated by an increased ankle plantarflexion moment which could potentially increase the load on the Achilles tendon.”

Franettovich Smith MM1, Honeywill C, Wyndow N, Crossley KM, Creaby MW. : Neuromotor control of gluteal muscles in runners with achilles tendinopathy.
Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2014 Mar;46(3):594-9.

Thinking on your feet. You have less than 20 minutes with this gentleman, as he has to leave to catch a plane. See how you did. 

Lateral foot pain and cowboy boots?

A 55 YO male patient presents with pain in his left foot area of the cuboid and tail of the fifth metatarsal.  He was told that he had a “locked cuboid” on this side by his chiropractor, who provided some treatment and temporary relief. There has been  no history of trauma and Most recently, he has been wearing cowboy boots and doing “a lot of walking” particularly when he was over in Europe and feels this was a precipitating factor.

Watching him walk in his cowboy boots, the rear foot and heel plate of the cowboy boot is worn into varus. Gait evaluation reveals his left foot to remain in supination (and thus in varus) throughout the entire gait cycle. 

Examination of the foot revealed loss of long axis extension at the metatarsophalangeal and interphalangeal articulations. The cuboid appeared to be moving appropriately. (to see why cuboid function is integral, see this post here. ) There was weakness in the peroneus brevis and peroneus longus musculature with reactive trigger points in the belly of each.  There is tenderness over the tail of the fifth metatarsal and the groove where the peroneal muscle travels through as well as in the peroneal tendon as it travels through here. 

So, what’s up?

This patient has peroneal tendonitis at the point around the foot as it goes around the tail of the fifth metatarsal. Discomfort is dull and achy in this area.  The cowboy boot is putting his foot in some degree of supination (plantar flexion, inversion adduction); this combined with the rear foot varus (from wear on the heel) is creating excessive load on the peroneus longus, which is trying to descend the 1st ray and create a stable medial tripod. Look at the pictures above and check out this post here

What did we do?

Temporarily, we created a valgus post on an insole for him.  This will push him onto his 1st metatarsal as he goes through  midstance into termiinal stance. He was asked to discontinue using the boot until we could get the heel resoled with a very slight valgus cant. We also treated with neuromuscular acupuncture over the peroneal group (GB 34, GB 35, GB 36 and a few Ashi points between GB34 and 35) circle the Dragon about the tail of fifth metatarsal, GB41 as well as the insertion of peroneus onto the base of the first metatarsal (approximately SP4).   We K-taped the peroneus longus to facilitate function of peroneus longus.  He was given peroneus longus (plantarflexion and eversion) and peroneus brevis (dorsiflexion and eversion) theraband exercises. 

How did you do? Easy peasy, right? If they were all only this straight forward….

 

The Gait Guys. teaching you to think on your feet and increasing your gait literacy with each and every post. 

 

Achilles tendonitis: Lift the heel, right? It does not appear so.

There was a recent article in one of our favorite journals, Lower Extremity Review which reviewed and expanded on another study from Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise we spoke about several PODcasts ago titled “Running shoes increase achilles tendon load in walking: an acoustic propagation study.”

 

The article discusses a new technique (1,2) for looking at tensile loads in the achilles and looks at 12 symptom free individuals on a treadmill barefoot and in a shoe with a 10 mm drop and found:

“Footwear resulted in a significant increase in step length, stance duration, and peak vertical ground reaction force compared with barefoot walking. Peak acoustic velocity in the Achilles tendon (P1, P2) was significantly higher with running shoes.”(1)

 

According to LER: “The researchers also found changes in basic gait parameters associated with walking in running shoes versus barefoot, which Wearing said may help explain the increased tendon load with shoes. Shoes increased mean ankle plantar flexion by 4° during quiet stance as measured by electrogoniometry. When walking with shoes, participants adopted a lower step frequency but greater step length, period of double support, peak vertical ground reaction force, and loading rate than when walking barefoot. The researchers also noted that participants’ stance phase was relatively longer (4%) during shod walking than during barefoot walking.” (3)

 

Of course, our big question is why?

 

Would an increase in step length result in increased tension? Perhaps, as the force that the heel would hit the ground would be increased because of a longer acceleration time (F=ma) and that is also what they found. The friction of the heel striking the ground would accelerate anterior translation of the talus, which plantar flexes, everts and abducts, accelerating pronation. The medial gastroc would be called into play to slow calcaneal eversion and this would indeed increase achilles tension.

 

Or perhaps it’s the fact that the foot will strike in slight greater plantarflexion (at least 4 degrees according to the study) and this results in an immediate greater load to the Achilles tendon.  Go ahead and try this while walking even if you’re barefoot. Walk across the floor and strike more on your forefoot. You will notice that you have an increased load in the tricep surae group.

 

Does this slight plantarflexion of the ankle contribute to greater eccentric load during stance phase?  This would certainly activate Ia afferent muscle spindles which would increase tensile stresses in the Achilles tendon.

 

This seems to fly directly in the face of the findings of Sinclair (4) who investigated knee and ankle loading in barefoot and barefoot inspired footwear and found increased Achilles loading in both compared to “conventional shoes”.

 

Of course this also begs the question of  what type of shoes were they in? High top shoes or low top shoes and were the shoes tied or not? High top shoes seem to reduce Achilles tension more so than low top shoes, especially if they are tied (5).

 

 Whatever the reason, this questions the use of putting a lift or a higher heel shoe underneath the foot of people that have Achilles tendinitis.  Once again what seemed to make biomechanical sense is trumped by science.

 

 We think training people to have greater amounts of hip extension as well as ankle dorsiflexion,  as well as appropriate foot and lower extremity biomechanics with the requisite  skill, endurance and strength is a much better way to treat Achilles tendonitis regardless of whether they’re wearing footwear or not.

 

The Gait Guys

 

References:

1. Wearing SC, Reed LF, Hooper SL, et al. Running shoes increase Achilles tendon load in walking: An acoustic propagation study. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2014;46(8):1604-1609.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24500535

2. Reed LF, Urry SR, Wearing SC. Reliability of spatiotemporal and kinetic gait parameters determined by a new instrumented treadmill system. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 2013;14:249.

3. Black, Hank. Achilles oddity: Heeled shoes may boost load during gait. In the Moment:Rehabilitation   LER Sept 2014  http://lermagazine.com/news/in-the-moment-rehabilitation/achilles-oddity-heeled-shoes-may-boost-load-during-gait

4. Sinclair J. Effects of barefoot and barefoot inspired footwear on knee and ankle loading during running. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2014 Apr;29(4):395-9. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2014.02.004. Epub 2014 Feb 23.

5. Rowson S1, McNally C, Duma SM. Can footwear affect achilles tendon loading? Clin J Sport Med. 2010 Sep;20(5):344-9. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e3181ed7e50.

Oval Track Running Injuries, Part 2. The Details.

Last week we did a blog post on the problems that oval track running can set up in terms of injury and promoting asymmetry, LINK).  We wanted to briefly go back to that article to hit some details that many folks did not put together. 

Keep in mind as you read on that the scenario is the typical counterclockwise oval track running.  As it said in the study, “analysis indicated that the left (inside limb) invertors increased in strength significantly more than the right (outside limb) invertors while the right evertors increased in strength significantly more than the left evertors.”

What this means is that someone who runs repeatedly counterclockwise on an oval track will drive skill, endurance and strength (the 3 basic tenets to solidifying a motor pattern) into the inside limb invertor muscles. This means the tibialis posterior, medial gastrocsoleus complex, flexor hallucis longus (likely) as well as some of the medial foot intrinsics. Because they are invertors, they are fighting the pronatory eversion forces on the track surface. These muscles will help to keep the ankle and foot neutral and slow the rate of foot pronation.  When these muscles are weak we see posterior shin splints in the left foot/ankle early in the track season. 

Whereas, the outside limb will be staving off the forces that want to launch the person off of the curves and off the outside of the track. Hence this limb will constantly redirect the forces inwards into the center of the track so that centripetal forces can continue to act to keep the runner on the curve (centripetal force is defined as a force which keeps a body moving with a uniform speed along a circular path and is directed along the radius towards the center). This means that the evertor muscles of the outside leg will be gaining skill, endurance and strength with every lap of training.  Hence, improvements in the peroneal group, the lateral gastrocsoleus namely.  Without these improvements the outside ankle would eventually fail and the forces are synonymous with inversion sprain mechanics.  Remember, here as well, these improvements in these muscle groups are designed to try and hold the ankle in a safe neutral biomechanical position and avoid inversion injury via the imparted forces.

It is also imperative to point out that the inside foot will see more ankle (mortise) dorsiflexion and eversion and the outside ankle will be seeing more (mortise) dorsiflexion and inversion.  We know that there are two heads to the tibialis anterior, one helps create more eversion and one more inversion.  Do we also want to see an imbalance and experience differential there as well ? If you have been with The Gait Guys for the last 4 years you will know that we harp on symmetrical ankle rocker range and function.  How can we expect to stay injury free with all this purposely driven asymmetrical skill, endurance and strength ?

Then one must remember that these muscular chains do not stop locally. If the inside foot invertor muscles are strengthened it is likely that the tonus and capabilities of the inner leg chain will be improved upon let alone the spiral chains as well.  Inner thigh groups including the adductors improve lower abdominal function from what we see in decades of clients. But remember, the outside leg is not seeing this same chain of muscles getting ramped up, rather it is seeing the lateral chain higher up improving which included the right gluteus medius to name just one. Furthermore, and we have talked about this until blue in the face, when  you have asymmetrical lower limb function you have asymmetrical upper limb swing.  We see shoulder and neck imbalances in our track athletes all the time.  And, then think about this, on non-track days what to many track athletes do ? They then go and drive massive strength into these asymmetries by going into the weight room and drive the problem deeper.

Our point here is that we are driving massive asymmetry into the human track machine. As as with any machine, loosen one bolt on one side and tighten the same bold on the other side and there will be a price to pay in the function of the machine. In the short term it will be one of performance, in the slightly longer term it will be one of injury.  As this study suggested, ” a high incidence of lower extremity injury (68%) occurred in this sample of runners, corresponding to an injury rate of 0.75 injuries per 100 person-hours of sport exposure. Although sample size was limited, secondary analysis indicated that strength changes were not significantly different for injured (n = 17) and uninjured (n = 8) runners (p > 0.05)”. Our response to the later statement is “give it time!”.  If you are one of these track athletes and are not injured, we like to say that you are likely lucky……. for now.

If you are a coach or an athlete, for the sake of your feet and legs……. use your head.
Shawn & Ivo
details, details, details……… because details matter.
______________________

Clin J Sport Med. 2000 Oct;10(4):245-50.

Asymmetrical strength changes and injuries in athletes training on a small radius curve indoor track.

Beukeboom C, Birmingham TB, Forwell L, Ohrling D.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

1) To evaluate strength changes in the hindfoot invertor and evertor muscle groups of athletes training and competing primarily in the counterclockwise direction on an indoor, unbanked track, and 2) to observe injuries occurring in these same runners over the course of an indoor season.

DESIGN:

Prospective observational study.

SETTING:

Fowler-Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario.

PARTICIPANTS:

A convenience sample of 25 intercollegiate, long sprinters (200-600 m) and middle distance runners (800-3,000 m) competing and training with the 1995-1996 University of Western Ontario Track and Field team.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:

A standardized protocol using the Cybex 6000 isokinetic dynamometer was used to measure peak torques of the hindfoot invertor and evertor muscle groups of both limbs using concentric and eccentric contractions performed at angular velocities of 60, 120, and 300 degrees/sec. Changes in peak torques between the preseason and postseason values were calculated and compared using a repeated measures analysis of variance test. Injury reports were collected by student athletic trainers and in the Sport Medicine and Physiotherapy clinic.

RESULTS:

Primary analysis indicated that the left (inside limb) invertors increased in strength significantly more than the right (outside limb) invertors (p = 0.01), while the right evertors increased in strength significantly more than the left evertors (p = 0.04). A high incidence of lower extremity injury (68%) occurred in this sample of runners, corresponding to an injury rate of 0.75 injuries per 100 person-hours of sport exposure. Although sample size was limited, secondary analysis indicated that strength changes were not significantly different for injured (n = 17) and uninjured (n = 8) runners (p > 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS:

The observed small, but statistically significant, asymmetrical changes in strength of the hindfoot invertor and evertor muscle groups can best be described as a training effect. Altered biomechanics proposed to occur in the stance foot while running on the curve of the track are discussed in relation to the observed strength imbalance. A causal link between strength changes and lower extremity injuries cannot be inferred from this study, but suggestions for further research are made.