Although Achilles tendinitis may affect runners of all levels, it is more common among newer athletes. Your chances of developing Achilles tendinitis correlates with sudden upticks in mileage or intensity, changes in shoes, or usual variation in running terrain. In other words, if your body has not adapted to the workload properly, then you are at risk.
The gastrocnemius and soleus muscles combine to make the Achilles tendon which attaches the calf muscles to the calcaneus or heel bone. The tendon helps the muscles of the calf extend the foot during walking, jumping, or running. However, repetitive overuse of this movement can place excessive stress on the tendon leading to damage and irritation of the tendon.
Signs And Symptoms Of Achilles Tendonitis
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• Stiffness in the calf muscles and Achilles tendon when flexing and extending the foot
• Dull or mild ache in the Achilles that perhaps is more notable in the morning. This discomfort may be alleviated with movement.
• Tenderness and swelling may be present along the Achilles tendon or portions of the heel
• Pain with walking, running, jumping, or climbing stairs
While runners who have experience with prior Achilles tendon injuries may recognize Achilles tendinitis, it is strongly recommended to seek a professional diagnosis from a chiropractor, physical therapist, or other sports-specific medical professionals. Delaying proper diagnosis and care may lead to months of forced inactivity and, worse, a tear or complete rupture of the Achilles tendon.
Examination of the area generally includes manual testing of the calf muscles, range of motion of the ankle, and palpation of the tendon itself. Imaging such as MRI and diagnostic ultrasound is only used in rare cases when an injury has become chronic or to assess the degree of torn fibers in a partially or completely ruptured tendon.
Treatment At Home
Reduce Training Volume - Like many other musculoskeletal injuries, our first course of treatment is to back off from activity. Reduce your overall weekly mileage. You can substitute cross-training such as biking or swimming for running.
Self Massage - Gentle massage the calf muscles using a massage gun or roller stick to reduce strain and pull on the Achilles’ tendon. *Don‘t roll directly over your Achilles during this phase of healing as it can agitate the Achilles and delay recovery
Ice and Elevation - Applying localized ice for 10 - 15 minutes, 2 - 3 times a day to help alleviate pain and swelling.
Treatment By Medical Professional
Myofascial Release and Deep Tissue Work- applied to the calf muscles and structures on either side of the Achilles to improve blood flow to promote healing and reduced muscular pull on the tendon.
Cupping - works by lifting the layers of skin and fascia overlying the muscles to promote blood flow and healing.
Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization/Tool Scraping - works to decrease friction between the fascia and muscles to improve range of motion and reduce muscular tension.
Rehabilitation - Initially, exercises are focused on improving the mobility of the ankle and foot, then the focus will shift to improving motor control and endurance of the muscles of the calf and foot.
OTC medications - In moderate to severe cases, your physician may suggest and prescribe oral medication to help reduce pain symptoms and inflammation.
Surgery - If the Achilles tendon is completely ruptured, surgery may be needed to repair the tendon. After the surgery, you will be placed in a boot until the tendon is ready to start a lengthy rehabilitation process.
How To Reduce The Risk Of Achilles Tendinitis In The Future
• Train smarter, not harder. Take time to build your base mileage slowly. Allow your body to adapt to the new, increased workload slowly.
• Always complete a dynamic warm-up before activity and follow each training session with a cool down and light stretching or rolling.
• Maintain proper hydration before, during, and after running. Dehydration will increase the chances of developing Achilles tendonitis.
• Wear properly fitted footwear by getting assessed for running shoes at a specialty store.
• Focus on maintaining good foot and ankle mobility by completing a routine to address any deficits.