Achilles tendonitis is a sports injury that many runners or other athletes experience. The good news is that Achilles tendonitis is usually not serious and, with good self-care, it is also preventable.
Achilles Tendonitis is usually caused by overuse or repetitive motion in the foot and ankle joint. The Achilles tendon runs along the back of the lower leg and foot , connecting the calf muscle to the heel bone. Sudden exertion or heavy impact can inflame this tendon, causing swelling and pain. It’s important to note that Achilles tendon problems could also be Achilles tendonosis, an injury caused by microtears in the tendon that do not heal as quickly as Achilles tendonitis.
According to WebMD, you may have Achilles tendonitis if you have swelling in your ankle area accompanied by mild pain. Other symptoms include decreased strength or flexibility. If you have a tear in your Achilles tendon, it is not uncommon to hear a pop accompanying a sharp pain and bruising. Be sure to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis of your condition.
If you’ve injured your Achilles tendon, the good news is that it can heal itself. It may take time, however, so don’t return to your sports or exercise too soon and put yourself at risk of another or a more serious injury. More serious injuries such as a torn tendon can require surgery and some sort of cast along with physical therapy.
For Achilles tendonitis, however, the most common treatment is RICE:
Rest: Take pressure off your Achilles tendon by avoiding strenuous activity. If you’re dedicated to staying in shape or training for a sporting event, choose another exercise such as swimming.
Ice: Keep the pain and swelling down by applying ice to the Achilles tendon for 15 minutes after exercise or when you have pain.
Compression: Use a compression bandage or a sports wrap to reduce swelling and stabilize the tendon.
Elevation- Keep the injured foot above your heart to help reduce the swelling. Sleep with the foot elevated on pillows at night.
With proper home treatment many people can heal and get back to their activities. If your pain or swelling persists, however, make sure you see a doctor.
Because the Achilles tendon becomes weaker as people age, injuries of this area are common in middle-aged people who casually play sports such as tennis or basketball. Achilles tendonitis is also common in runners who suddenly increase their distance or intensity, such as if they are training for a big race.
To prevent Achilles Tendonitis, the Mayo Clinic suggests that you gradually increase your intensity or regularity of exercise so that your body has time to warm up before heavy training. It’s also important to stretch daily, paying special attention to your calf muscles to prevent repeated injury to the Achilles tendon.
A heel-raise program can also help increase the strength of the Achilles tendon and the calf muscles. Weakness in the calf muscles can place extra strain on the tendon so making sure both of these tissues are strong is critical for preventing an injury especially during high impact activities.
Choose your shoes wisely so your tendons get proper support. Get shoes with proper cushioning in the heel and arch support in order to take pressure off the Achilles tendon, reducing your risk of tearing or over-exerting it. Make sure you check your shoes for atypical wear patterns and replace them regularly. You might also wear arch supports, Achilles tendon straps, or heel cups to enhance your regular exercise shoes.
Cross training is another important way to prevent Achilles tendonitis. Switch up your routine with low-impact exercises such as swimming, bicycling, or yoga with your higher impact exercise so you can build strength and flexibility while keeping in shape.