Your Achilles tendons are the largest tendons in your body, and they absorb the shock in every jump, twist, and step you take. But because they’re so busy, they can often become injured or inflamed — and this can lead to a condition known as Achilles tendonitis.
You might’ve heard that a massage for Achilles tendonitis can ease your pain and loosen up your stiff muscles. But what does the research say? And if a massage can help you feel better, how can you try it at home?
Here’s what you should know about the benefits of massage for Achilles tendonitis pain, how it works, and tips for getting started.
Understanding Achilles Tendonitis
If you’ve been struggling with Achilles tendonitis, it might be related to age, arthritis, or another condition. But oftentimes, you can trace your pain back to a sudden movement (like a big jump or fall) or a physical activity like jogging.
For example, maybe you went on an intense hike yesterday, or did one too many jump squats at the gym. Or maybe you’ve just started running again after being sedentary for a long period of time.
In any case, specific movements can stress out your joints and tendons. And with too much of this stress and shock, you can run into Achilles tendonitis.
So, How Can Massage Therapy Help Achilles Tendonitis?
When your tendons get hurt, the muscles around them can also become stiff — and in the case of the Achilles tendon, this can affect the two calf muscles known as the gastrocnemius and soleus. Unfortunately, muscle tension here can decrease your range of motion, stress out your lower leg, and even lead to additional pain.
As your Achilles tendon recovers, it can help to find ways to support healthy movement in your lower leg muscles. And this is where a gentle massage can be beneficial.
Of course, as good as a massage feels, it can’t cure or fix a tendon injury. However, research has shown that it can help ease pain and bring you some in-the-moment relief.
Best Massage for Achilles Tendonitis: 3 Ways
Here are three ways to try massage for Achilles tendonitis:
Simple Calf Foam Rolling Exercise
A foam roller is a powerful self-myofascial release tool that can help you relieve muscle tension in the calves. And by breaking up this tension, you can take some pressure off your Achilles tendon and reduce pain.
Here’s how to get started:
- Sitting on a yoga mat or comfortable floor, place your foam roller under your calf muscles.
- Use your arms to gently lift your body off the ground.
- Roll back and forth to lightly massage the calves.
- If you sense a trigger point or concentrated area of soreness, you can lift your opposite leg and rest it on top of the leg with the trigger point. This weight can increase the pressure and allow you to massage the muscle more deeply.
- Rotate your calf as needed to reach different angles of the muscles.
- Repeat for up to two minutes.
Try an Electric Foot Massager
Using an oscillating massager like the MedMassager MMF07 is an easy, straightforward way to soothe tight lower leg muscles at home. Here are the steps:
- Place the machine at an angle so you can rest your calf muscles on top of it, as opposed to your feet. (This is pictured below.)
- Turn the massager on to a low, gentle setting, and allow it to warm up your leg muscles for 90 seconds or so.
- After the warm-up, adjust the intensity of the massage to your desired pressure.
- Let the massager work your leg muscles for 5 to 10 more minutes.
- Repeat up to a few times per day.
If you don’t have any special massage tools at home, don’t worry. There are still some powerful and effective ways you can use your hands to relieve Achilles tendonitis pain. Here’s how:
- Sitting in a comfortable chair, cross your problem leg up on your opposite knee. This position will give you better access to your calf muscles.
- Knead or rub the calf muscles for a few minutes. Start gently and increase your pressure as needed.
- Focus on the meatier top part of the calf, and work your way down to the muscle near the tendon. Feel free to spend some extra time on trigger points or knots, but stop if you feel any significant pain.
- For a more focused Achilles tendon massage, you can also try a modality called cross friction massage. Here is a demonstration to help you get started.
Getting Started with Achilles Tendon Massage
While massage can’t cure Achilles tendonitis, it may bring you short-term relief and alleviate pain during your healing process. Once you’re ready to start, you can try a simple foam rolling routine, an electric massager, or a short self-massage to ease pain and start feeling better.
As a final note, it’s important to remember that pain in the Achilles tendon can sometimes be serious or linked to another medical condition. So, before getting started, be sure to check with your doctor to figure out whether massage is a safe and healthy choice for you.
Therapeutic Massage at Home