Preventing Pain In Your Achilles

Your Achilles tendon plays a critical role in the health of your lower leg, foot and ankle. It connects your calf muscle to your heel bone, so any injury can cause this tendon to stretch or tear. And when that happens, it causes serious pain and a range of other issues like swelling, tenderness, stiffness and inflammation. Don't threat; we are here to help! 

What is Achilles Tendonitis?

Achilles tendonitis, also known as Achilles tendinopathy, is a common condition where the Achilles tendon becomes inflamed due to repetitive microtrauma (overuse), direct trauma or degeneration in the tissue. Over time, this may result in pain and loss of flexibility in the tendon.

Why has this happened?

The Achilles tendon (also called the calcaneal tendon) is a strong, flexible band of tissue that connects the calf muscles to the heels. It allows people to lift their heels and move forwards, backwards, and sideways. When the tendons are overused or injured, they can become inflamed, leading to symptoms such as pain and swelling in the lower leg or heel. The main cause of Achilles tendinopathy is overuse.

The body's tendons are made of a type of dense connective tissue called collagen. Elastic fibers, a branch of the collagen family, are arranged into straight lines and bundled together. These bundles can become more vulnerable to micro-trauma and reactive tendinopathy during overuse. The condition is characterized by a change in the structure of the tendons: an abnormal amount of water accumulates in between bundles, resulting in softened and weak tissue.

What can you do to help Achilles pain?

The best way to deal with Achilles tendinopathy pain is to do less activity and take time off. You shouldn't need any special kind of treatment or surgery. In fact, most people recover without any treatment at all. But if you are one of the people who need help, talk to your podiatrist about physical therapy, rest, and anti-inflammatory drugs to help relieve the pain.

Activity and load management - You need to rest your Achilles tendon if you want it to heal — and unfortunately, resting can be difficult for most people for a variety of reasons. But try to take some time off from your usual activities, and avoid doing anything that will put extra stress on the tendon. It's okay if you need to cut back on your activity level slightly while the tendon heals.

If you're experiencing foot pain, Cross-Training might be the answer. Swimming and cycling are both great exercises to keep your fitness levels up, as they won't put extra stress on your foot. However, you must find a delicate balance between your day to day life, sports and training. If you feel as though you may be struggling, don't be afraid to seek help – podiatrists can also assist with this.

Strengthening exercises - Strengthening exercises can help you build tendon strength and resilience. However, the types of exercise that will be most helpful to you depend on your fitness level and current level of tendon pain and dysfunction. Speak to a professional before embarking on an exercise regimen so that you do not exacerbate your condition.

Isometric exercises provide an effective way to improve muscle strength and endurance in patients suffering with calf injuries. They have been shown to be beneficial for athletes, as they are a great way to bridge the gap between rest periods, while increasing strength and reducing your risk of getting injured in the future.

Medication - Inflammation is not a common cause of Reactive Tendinopathy. In fact, most cases are caused by overuse or injury to the tendon. However, it's still believed that anti-inflammatory medication can help with reducing swelling and improving pain. The theory behind this treatment is that it prevents certain proteins from building up in the tendon.

Podiatrists will always begin with an assessment to find your ideal starting point before designing a rehabilitation and load management program customized to your lifestyle. It's important to figure out what caused the injury in the first place. For instance, improper footwear might have led to tendonitis or inflammation of a tendon. In such cases, podiatrists would often advise you to adjust your shoe size and type, as well as wear orthotics. 

Inactivity and poor posture are often the root of musculoskeletal problems. Foot specialists, like podiatrists, can analyze gait (a person's natural way of walking or running) to identify any potential errors in your movement pattern that may be causing your problem. This is an important first step in identifying and treating your injuries.

A podiatrist has the tools and training to help you treat your Achilles pain. A podiatrist will be able to perform a physical examination of your Achilles tendon and recommend treatments that can restore your mobility, relieve pain, and prevent future injury. If you're suffering from Achilles pain, contact a podiatrist today!