Sports Massage Techniques for Achilles Tendon

We demonstrate some simple sports massage techniques a therapist my use to help treat achilles tendintis and achilles tendon ruptures.

The following sports massage guide is intended for information purposes only. We recommend seeking professional advice before attempting any self help treatment.

Before attempting massage your therapist will check for contraindications. This means that massage would be dangerous to perform if you have any of these conditions.

Achilles tendinitis massage

Massage has many benefits but specifically for achilles tendonitis it can help break down scar tissue, stimulate blood flow and therefore healing and aid in the stretching of the calf muscles.

Achilles rupture massage

Sports massage can also be of benefit in the later stages of a partial rupture of the achilles tendon although professional advice should be sought as to the timing. A complete achilles tendon rupture treated with surgery may benefit from achilles massage from week 8 of the rehab program.

Calf massage techniques should also be used to stretch and relax the Gastrocnemius and Soleus muscles, which in turn takes the strain off the achilles.

Technique 1: Effleurage

  • Effleurage should be used at the start of any massage to spread the oil evenly and to warm-up the tissue in preparation for deeper techniques.
  • Effleurage of the whole of the calf should be performed to ensure the whole of the tendon and the junction where the tendon joins the muscle, are covered.
  • Apply pressure from the heel, up towards the knee. Once the knee is reached, move the hands to the outsides of the leg and gently return to the heel and repeat.

Technique 2:Transverse mobilization

  • With the first finger of one hand and the thumb of the other hand, alternate to apply transverse pressure.
  • This pulls the tendon across one way and then the other. Too much oil can make this technique difficult to control so wipe off any excess oil.
  • This technique will mobilize the tendon making it more supple.

Technique 3: Stripping the achilles tendon

  • With the thumbs apply sustained pressure along the full length of the achilles tendon.

Technique 4: Cross frictions

  • With the first two fingers apply gentle pressure in a transverse direction to the achilles tendon.
  • Again, too much oil and the therapist will find they are unable to apply the technique correctly.
  • Apply frictions for between 2 and 5 minutes.

Technique 5: Circular frictions

  • Place a finger each side of the achilles tendon and apply pressure in a circular direction.
  • Aim to feel the tendon underneath the fingers. Massage may be uncomfortable but should not be so painful that the athlete tightens up.
  • This is unlikely to be of benefit. Apply frictions for between 2 and 5 minutes.

The above techniques can help to reduce swelling, aid circulation and prevent the build up of adhesions (sticky bits that prevent the tendon from sliding properly in it's sheath). It may also help to apply ice or cold therapy after treatment for 10 minutes.

Light massage can usually be performed daily, however for deeper techniques alternate days may be more appropriate allowing the tissues time to recover. It is important to assess the results of treatment both afterwards and the next day. Has pain and swelling increased? If so then discontinue.