3 Ways to Fix and Avoid Achilles Tendonitis

Chances are that if you are a runner, you have come up against Achilles Tendonitis in your past.  It is one of the most common injuries at the foot and ankle.  It is characterized by pain at the base of the Achilles tendon at the back of the heel.  It typically hurts most in the morning and at the beginning of a walk or jog.  In most cases, with a little rest, ice, and a decrease in exercise, the symptoms will go away.  But in some cases, the pain persists and you may need extra help.

The Achilles Tendon is the attachment site of the Gastrocsoleus (calf) muscle to the Calcaneous (heel) bone in your foot.  It is made up of tough connective tissue and does not have a particularly good blood supply for healing.  Its job is to act as a shock absorber when the foot hits the ground and to create push off when you are advancing your foot forward in gait.  It works quite well if everything around it is mechanically functioning correctly.  If however, there is a problem with the mechanics of the foot or your shoewear, the tendon can be put at risk.

Achilles tendon

Here are 3 Things that you can do to fix and avoid Achilles Tendonitis in your future:

1) Stretch your calves – The research has found that one of the driving forces behind Achilles Tendonitis is a short Gastroc Soleus muscle.  If the muscle is shortened, it can put increased tension at the end of the tendon causing it to get inflamed where it attaches to the bone.  Make sure to stretch your calves every day for at least 30 seconds per side.  And, remember that the stretch should not reproduce your pain, it should only feel like a stretch.

2) Eccentric Exercises for your calves – The research has found that a very specific weakness in the calf muscle can lead to Achilles Tendonitis.  Research has shown that eccentric exercise for the Gastrocsoleus Muscle can ward off Achilles Tendonitis.  An Eccentric Contraction of a muscle means that the muscle is getting longer as it is contracting.  An example of an eccentric exercise at the Gastrocsoleus muscle would be slowly controlling your heel as it lowers off the edge of the step.  These exercises must be done below the threshold of pain and often. The research suggests that you perform 30 in a row prior to a rest.

3) Look at your sneakers – The last major finding in the research is related to footwear.  Since the Achilles Tendon assists in the shock absorption of the foot and ankle, it will likely make sense that if you are wearing a shoe that is too old and it has lost is cushioning and support, you would be loading your tendon more.  One should typically replace their sneakers about every 6-9 months depending on how much use they are getting.

So if you follow these tips, you will be able to address any lingering problems you may have with Achilles Tendonitis.   If you have any questions, be sure to ask your personal trainer.  If you are unable to fix your tendonitis on your own, let your MD know because a physical therapist might be able to help.

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Diana grew up in a small suburb north of Boston. She received her clinical doctorate degree in Physical Therapy at Boston University in 2006. Diana started practicing as a physical therapist at Massachusetts General Hospital. While at MGH, she developed a specialty in the evaluation and treatment of complex lumbopelvic dysfunction. Diana is currently practicing at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston where she is the Orthopedic Clinical Supervisor of the Spine program. She is presently a Boston resident and her interests outside physical therapy include cooking, walking on the Esplanade, and international travel.

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