The rest of your rec basketball team is celebrating the big, last-second win versus the local moving company at half-court, but you are limping back to the bench with severe pain in your Achilles tendon. This didn’t hurt as much when it first started, cropping up a couple of weeks ago, but the pain has progressed in intensity and now it sounds like you are displaying symptoms of Achilles tendinitis. We are here to help you get back on the court, pain-free.
Achilles Injury Strikes
The Achilles tendon connects your calf muscle to the back of your heal and enables you to lift your heel and point your foot or stand on your toes. It is easy to identify, since you can see the band of tissue that runs along the backside of your lower leg and foot. This tissue is tough, but there are many ways that the band can become damaged, especially via repetitive trauma.
Many individuals who suffer from Achilles tendinitis are “weekend warriors” who participate in rec league sporting events on the weekend, but do not perform any other physical activity during the week. This is similar to starting a workout program with too much intensity because the body, including your Achilles tendon, is unprepared to handle the physical exertion.
When Tendons Can’t Handle the Strain
The primary symptom of Achilles tendinitis is pain above your heel on the backside of your lower leg that is particularly noted when the ankle is flexed or if you stand on your toes. Typically, the pain is rather mild at first, but will progressively worsen in time and with continued activity. This is different than in an instance of rupture where the pain is abrupt and severe.
In addition to pain, you may also note tenderness, stiffness, and swelling of the tendon. If you reach down and squeeze your affected Achilles, you will often be able to feel these signs. You may experience difficulty when you try to flex your foot or point your toes, but these are more prominently noticed in the instance of a rupture.
Fighting Back: Treatment for Your Achilles Tendon
This condition weakens your tendon, which makes it more vulnerable to a painful rupture. As such, the first step in treating Achilles tendinitis is to rest the affected foot, which is the start of the RICE treatment protocol:
- Rest. Avoid activity, especially high-impact exercises that strain your Achilles tendon. Consult with Dr. Gene Reister first, but you may be able to switch to a low-impact activity, like swimming, to maintain physical conditioning while your tendon heals.
- Ice. In order to keep swelling and pain to a minimum, it is a good idea to ice your injury for around 15 minutes when pain flairs up or after exercise.
- Compression. Compressive elastic bandages or wraps will help to restrict movement of the tendon and also reduce swelling. When applying a bandage, be careful not to wrap it so tightly that you experience numbness, tingling, or swelling below the bandage. If any of these happen, simply undo the wrap and then do it again more loosely.
- Elevation. Raising your injured foot above the level of your heart and sleeping with your foot elevated are further measures to reduce swelling and promote healing in the tendon.
You can help reduce your risk of sustaining this injury with a few countermeasures. Most importantly, slowly progress the levels of duration, frequency, and intensity by no more than 10% every week for a new workout program. Almost as important is to perform adequate warm-up and stretches prior to any activity, even rec league games. Cross-training—mixing low-impact activities like walking, bicycling, and swimming—with running and weight training will not only help decrease the likelihood of an tendon injury, but it will also promote greater overall health.
When you are experiencing symptoms of Achilles tendinitis and home care isn’t helping, come in and see the caring professionals at Richardson Podiatry Associates. We can answer any questions you may have or provide further insight into this ailment. Simply contact our Richardson, TX office by calling (972) 690-5374 or using our online appointment request form today.