The Achilles tendon is your body’s thickest and strongest tendon, but it isn’t immune to injury. On the contrary, Achilles tendinitis is quite common, especially for many runners and “weekend warriors.” Understanding this condition will help you know how to prevent it and when to get help.
Who Can Develop Achilles Tendinitis?
The term refers to inflammation of the tendon at the back of your ankle, often as the result of injury or disease. Accompanying the inflammation are aches, stiffness, tenderness, and even pain in the affected area. These symptoms begin following periods of activity, particularly when repetitive or intense strains are placed on your Achilles.
Risk factors for this condition include:
Age and gender. The injury is most commonly experienced by middle-aged men, especially those who participate in high-impact activities on the weekends (the proverbial “weekend warriors”).
Training choices. Going hand-in-hand with those weekend warriors, leading a sedentary lifestyle for six days of the week and then giving max effort in a rec basketball league increases the likelihood of an injury like tendinitis. Also, suddenly jumping into a new workout program without gradually ramping up your levels of intensity and duration makes it more likely that we see you in our waiting room.
Physical issues. Structural abnormalities, tight calf muscles, and obesity are all physical conditions that could potentially cause or contribute to tendinitis.
Medical conditions. Diabetes and high blood pressure are medical issues that increase your risk of developing tendinitis.
One good thing about this injury is that preventative measures are often quite effective. It is important to keep in mind that you will not completely take away the risk—any time you are physically active there will always be at least a slight chance of injury—but you can make it less likely. Steps for preventing Achilles tendinitis include:
Wear proper footwear – It is remarkable how many injuries, including this one, can be avoided simply by the right choice in shoes. This means wearing athletic shoes that are not worn-out, have firm arch support, and provide ample cushioning in the heel area.
Ease into workouts – When you begin a new workout program, start at an easy level and build up your levels of duration and intensity over time. Remember that you are not going to see results immediately, so give your body a chance to adapt to the new routine.
Warm up and stretch – Prior to starting a workout or competition, take 5-10 minutes and do an easy warm up to prepare your muscles and tendons for what lies ahead. After you have warmed up, then stretch your muscles to make sure they are loose. These two steps are essential for avoiding injury.
Stretch daily – Take time every day to stretch out your calves and Achilles tendons. Doing so first thing in the morning, after they have been static all night long, is a great way to start your day and keep you safe—as long as you don’t overstretch them.
Cross-train – Don’t limit your workout to only high-impact activities. You can decrease your risk of injury, while at the same time improving your overall level of physical fitness, by mixing in exercises like swimming, bicycling, and yoga.
Achilles Tendinitis Treatment
Care for an inflamed tendon is often conservative in nature. When you first sustain the injury, practicing the RICE method of first aid will help to control the situation. Rest, ice, compress, and elevate the affected area to prevent further injury, reduce swelling and pain, and give your body the chance to heal.
In the event that home treatment is not enough, our podiatrists can prescribe medication to control inflammation and pain. We may use orthotic devices, like shoe wedges or inserts, to slightly elevate your injured heel and relieve strain on the tendon. Using a cushioned pad to reduce the amount of stress placed on your tendon may also help.
Your First Choice for Palm Beach Foot Care
Palm Beach Podiatry has the expertise you need for optimal foot health. Simply contact our office by using the online form here on our website, or give us a call and schedule an appointment at any of our three Florida locations: Boynton Beach (561) 734-3100; Loxahatchee: (561) 791-7773; or Fort Pierce: (772) 468-0089.