Preventing and Treating Achilles Tendinitis
As the legendary tale of Achilles goes, his body was invincible, but his heels remained a weak spot. Today, this is something that many people – especially runners – are very much aware of. Although our Achilles may be the largest and strongest tendon in our bodies, it is commonly known to be vulnerable to running injuries, namely Achilles tendinitis.
You may have already heard of Achilles tendinitis or even experienced this painful condition firsthand. This type of tendon issue can happen to anyone, though it is normally found in those that regularly run or are physically active in other ways.
Perhaps you’ve started feeling painful heel sensations whenever you push off or rise up on your toes. Maybe you have been experiencing stiffness, redness, and swelling. These are all common symptoms of Achilles tendinitis, which may be the result of improper warm-up and stretching or of increasing the intensity level of your activities too quickly.
This is especially true for those who are middle-aged recreational athletes and are lacking in appropriate body conditioning. Whenever your body is unprepared to take on the stress of physical activities, you are at a higher risk of developing a tendon that has partially torn, or even completely ruptured.
The good news is that there are plenty of methods you can use in order to not only treat, but also prevent Achilles tendinitis from happening to you and your feet.
Read on to find out how you can best prepare your body for the stressors brought about by your favorite physical activities. And, if you are already dealing with Achilles tendinitis, then no worries! We have some great advice on how you can get back on your feet quickly and safely.
Common Causes of Achilles Tendinitis
Achilles tendinitis is considered to be an overuse injury, and, as already mentioned, this condition is commonly seen in those of us who are physically active. It can be the result of improper warming up and stretching or of increasing your activity level too quickly without enough build-up.
However, there are certain factors that can put you at a higher risk of developing tendinitis. Some of these include:
- Your gender. Men are at a much higher risk of suffering from tendinitis compared to women.
- Your age. As we age, the structure in our Achilles tendon will begin to weaken, increasing our chances of injury.
- Your training choices. If you use footwear that are worn down, or if you run in very hilly terrain, you are putting unnecessary pressure on your feet.
- Your physical characteristics. If you have flat feet or are obese you are putting more strain on your foot and, therefore, your chances of being injured increases.
- Your medications. There are some medications, particularly antibiotics called fluoroquinolones, which can make you susceptible to develop tendinitis.
If you fall into one or more of these categories, you should always take precautionary measures against developing Achilles tendinitis. You can start by making sure you perform your activities properly and wearing supportive shoes. It is also worth noting that you should never push through the pain, and if you feel discomfort, then allow your foot to heal.
Achilles Tendinitis Prevention
Unfortunately, if you are passionate about your physical activities, chances are you will most likely suffer from a pesky case of Achilles tendinitis at some point in your life. But while it may be virtually impossible to prevent this condition altogether, you can – and should –take steps to reduce your risk.
And, here are some ways you can do that:
- Warm up. Walk for a few minutes before you start your physical activity.
- Strengthen your calves. We recommend doing some toe-raise exercises – raise up on your tip-toes and hold for 10 seconds, then slowly lower and repeat.
- Wear the right shoes. Make sure your footwear fits properly and provides plenty of cushion and support.
- Take it slow. Gradually increase the intensity of your physical activities.
- Change your exercise routine. Incorporate low-impact activities like biking and swimming to help reduce the continuous stress placed on your Achilles tendon.
We hope that by taking these preventative steps, you will be able to steer clear of this painful foot problem. However, as we have already mentioned, Achilles tendinitis is almost inevitable for those of us who like to be active. So, whenever you do feel discomfort, there is no need to worry!
We can help you with that too.
Treating Achilles Tendinitis
At Home Remedies
Should you find yourself with Achilles tendinitis, we have some tips on how you can begin treatment:
- Wear an elastic brace. This will provide support to your pained tendon and help reduce swelling through compression.
- Change your physical activities. Instead, participate in low-impact activities like biking or swimming.
- Wear orthotics. Orthotics can help reduce pain by slightly elevating your heel and redistributing stressors and shock impacts.
- Apply ice. When doing so, you should also elevate your foot to encourage recovery.
- Go for a massage. Massage therapy will improve blood supply and promote healing.
- Apply anti-inflammatory medications. Topical anti-inflammatories such as Cortaid work great.
If you choose to take ibuprofen or other painkilling medications, be wary of merely masking the pain and risking re-injury because you feel better than you actually are. And, before you attempt to restart your physical activities, warm up your Achilles tendon with a heating pad for 10 minutes – this will help to loosen it.
If these home remedies don’t seem to be quite working for you, or if you suspect your Achilles tendon has actually ruptured, then you may need to undergo surgery. Surgical repair is only necessary in extreme cases, but it is an option that exists. In the podiatry world, there are two ways in which we can repair an Achilles rupture: surgical or non-surgical methods.
It may come as a surprise to you, but the surgical approach tends to be preferred by most doctors and patients. This is especially true for those who are still relatively young and active – surgical methods usually provide a faster recovery period and the tendon is less likely to be re-injured.
On the other hand, whenever we recommend the non-surgical approach, the leg is placed in a cast or walking boot to keep it protected and immobile long enough for the body to heal on its own. However, this method may keep you off your feet for longer as it increases the risk of re-injury.
Either way, you are going to need an expert foot specialist to help you make the best decision for your specific situation so that you can be confident that you will have the best chance of a quick recovery.