Achilles Tendinitis is an extremely painful injury that occurs when you increase your workout load or intensity. It can be tough to shake once it occurs. This article will help you identify, treat, and most importantly, prevent it from happening to you. It’s important to take care of your achilles tendon – you don’t want to rupture it and face several months of rehabilitation.
What Is Achilles Tendinitis?
You achilles tendon is located in the back of your leg, connecting the calf muscle to your heel. It’s the largest tendon in your body and is extremely strong. However, if placed under too much stress over time, it can begin to degenerate.
There are actually two types of achilles tendinitis, insertional and noninsertional. Insertional occurs at the point where your tendon attaches to your heel. Noninsertional occurs anywhere in the middle part of the tendon.
How Do You Get It?
- Overuse. Like most running injuries, overuse is the main cause. Noninsertional achilles tendinitis is what usually occurs in runners, although insertional can happen to anyone as well. Your tendon begins to develop small tears as tendinitis develops.
- Tight Calves. This puts extra stress on your achilles tendon and increases the risk of overuse.
- Bone Spurs. If you have a bone spur in your heel, your achilles may rub against the extra bone and cause the degeneration of the tendon.
Pain from achilles tendinitis is felt in between your calf and your heel bone. It is usually accompanied with stiffness and a lack of flexibility in your ankle. During a workout, pain may not be present at the start and gradually increase as you continue. Pain and swelling after a workout (or a day after) can be severe. It’s possible that ignoring achilles tendinitis can result in a ruptured tendon.
Achilles tendinitis can heal on its own. However, it’s an injury that can take a while to heal and requires patience. Surgical options are available, but I wouldn’t recommend doing that unless you had no other option. Seeing a doctor will help you correctly diagnose and treat this injury.
- Rest. You need to rest your legs as much as possible.
- Stretching. If you have achilles problems, you likely have tight calves. Make sure your calves are loose. A massage can help a lot.
- Foam Roller. Using a foam roller (or a tennis ball) can help you massage your calves and take stress off of your tendons.
- Physical Therapy. A therapist can guide you through routines of specific exercises that will allow you to heal.
- OTC Medicines. Take an OTC anti-inflammatory medicine. It will reduce swelling and temporarily relive your pain.
- Cortisone. You can get a cortisone shot that will reduce inflammation in your achilles tendon over a much longer period of time than OTC medicines. The temptation is to return to activity immediately, but take advantage of the reduced inflammation and combine with rest and prescribed physical therapy to heal.
Here’s how to prevent an achilles tendinitis:
- Learn proper running form. Proper running form can help you avoid overuse injuries.
- Increase your training slowly. It’s really important not to overdo it if you’re a beginner (this includes if you’re an experienced runner switching to minimalist or barefoot running). Overuse injuries are easily preventable.
- Warm up before you run – cool down and stretch afterwards. Warm up before your run. Cool down and stretch afterwards. It will improve your flexibility and reduce your recovery time, making you less likely to get suffer an overuse injury.
This is a post in a series of articles about common running injuries. These articles are purposely broad and intended for your education. Do not use this information as a substitute for doctor’s advice or a professional medical opinion. To see the entire series, click here.