Achilles tendinopathy (AT) is a common problem that affects runners and other athletes, as well as the general population.
According to a recent study published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine (Stefansson et al, 2019), pressure massage may be a useful therapy for supporting clients with AT.
A team of researchers from the University of Iceland and University of Copenhagen conducted a randomised controlled trial to determine whether pressure massage to the calf muscles is a useful treatment for AT, by comparing it with an eccentric exercise protocol.
Sixty patients with AT were recruited and randomly assigned to three groups: one with the eccentric exercise protocol, another with pressure massage, and a third where participants underwent both the eccentric exercise protocol and pressure massage. The researchers asked the participants to complete a questionnaire and to undergo a series of tests to monitor progress.
The exercise protocol required participants to stand on a step, lift up their toes, put weight on their injured leg and slowly lower their heel as far as possible until a maximal stretch was felt. This was performed with both straight knee and bent knee for 12 weeks.
In group two participants received pressure massage from a therapist twice a week for six weeks and once a week for the next six weeks.
The results showed that symptoms improved in all three groups, but the pressure massage group improved significantly more than the eccentric exercise group after four weeks, suggesting that although both interventions improved outcomes, pressure massage achieved faster results. Improvements in range of movement were found equally across all three groups.
In the conclusion, the researchers stated that: ‘Pressure massage is a valid treatment for AT and is at least as effective as eccentric exercises as measured with the VISA-A-IS questionnaire and ROM in ankle dorsiflexion’ and ‘Because trigger points might contribute to the pain in AT, we suggest that treatment to the calf muscles be included in future treatments for Achilles tendinopathy.’
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