When it comes to running, perhaps you are nothing but a strong, dedicated, and hard-core runner who puts in hours of practice every day of the week. Not only do you run consistently, but also you push yourself each time to be better than before. From long distances to interval training, you do them all…and all with pleasure!
That said, you do not waste a day without doing some form of running, with little breaks in between to boot. As a result, you might have recently started feeling a weird sensation in your Achilles heel, which might even become painful in the process. Little do you know that you have what is known as Achilles tendinitis and, if not prevented in time, it can lead to worse, even chronic, conditions, later down the line.
You might be wondering just how you can learn more about Achilles tendinitis, as well as learn ways on how to get rid of it. Having Achilles tendinitis does not necessarily spell doom for your running career, if you are willing to take measures to recover well. That is why we are here to help! Read on to learn more on what Achilles tendinitis is, as well as receive guidance on how to cure your body from it. Soon enough, you will be back to your old self in no time.
Without further ado, let’s get right down to it!
First things first, we need to back up and learn a bit more about just what Achilles tendinitis is. We already got you covered on the knowledge of peroneal tendonitis (which is just as equally debilitating), but here, we will catch you up to speed on its Achilles counterpart.
To start, you need to know that any condition with the word “tendinitis” refers to the inflammation and swelling of the tendons, often due to extra pressure and/or overextending them. It comes as no wonder, then, that Achilles tendonitis refers to the tendons of the Achilles heels getting inflamed; it is the band of tissue that runs from the back of your calves all the way down to the bottom of your foot, thereby resulting in that irritating, sometimes burning sensation on the bottom of your feet and right at the heel.
As we have discussed, you can get Achilles tendinitis by extra pressure or overextension of the tendons in that area. We would like to add, however, that this extra pressure and overextension is aggravated by certain activities that you do, thereby making it one of the most preventable injuries for runners.
For instance, Achilles tendinitis can arise when you start a running regime too quickly: one day, you are running one mile, and the next day, you run six miles. While it is in your head that you want to get better and stronger at running, undergoing the process too rapidly will result more so in getting injured rather than being rewarded for your efforts.
Essentially, the Achilles tendon does not have enough time to climatize to the sudden change in workouts, figuratively going from 0 to 100 mph within a short frame of time. As a result, the tendons end up tearing and on top of not giving yourself enough time to recover between workouts, they do not have enough time to repair before the next workout. It becomes a vicious cycle, and over time breaking down your Achilles tendons more and more.
Achilles tendinitis does not just apply to beginning runners, but also even professionals who have been at it for years. Usually, it arises from not taking good care of your body during each run: just like how running too little can lead to unhealthy habits, running too much can lead to unhealthy habits, too, of which can break you down little by little. By the time you realize what is happening, it is usually too late to fix it, at least without the help of technical procedures.
Besides runners, other people of certain demographics are vulnerable to getting Achilles tendinitis. In particular, women, the elderly, people who are overweight, and those with a history of Achilles heel injuries are susceptible to getting Achilles tendinitis.
For women, it is the cause of their body structure (as opposed to men) which focuses on the hips and joints of the lower that unfairly puts them at a disadvantage for developing Achilles tendonitis. It is the added stress on the hips and joints that bear more weight than men’s which is not ideal for keeping their Achilles heels stable and in check.
On the other hand, the elderly is at risk for getting Achilles tendinitis, simply due to their aging body. Lack of proper vitamins and nutrients in their diet (e.g. vitamin D, calcium, etc.) can also aggravate the situation, thereby breaking down the suppleness of the tendons to ensure a supported heel.
People who are overweight or obese also have it rough, since the extra weight on their body puts excessive pressure on joints (knees, hips) as well as tendons such as that in the Achilles. Not only does it make it difficult for them to walk around, but also it presses down on the heel’s tendons in a not-so-ensuring manner, thereby leading to the possibility of the area getting inflamed, even injured.
Finally, people who have a history of injuries, especially those in the Achilles heel, are more susceptible to getting it again. This is due to the fact that, every time you injure yourself, your body works hard in order to recovery, but even once it is recovered, it will always be slightly weaker than your original self. By having a slightly weaker joint, it makes it all the easier for injuries to arise in that same spot, that is, if you are not careful and do not treat your body well with rest and care.
Aside from feeling the symptoms, you might also want to go to a doctor to confirm not only if you have Achilles tendinitis, but also just how severe it is. Make an appointment and go in to find out.
What you will need to expect upon entering the doctor’s premises is that you will be subjected to some screen tests. In other words, there are a few options on just how to diagnose if you, in fact, have Achilles tendinitis. We list them down below:
As the name suggests, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI, for short) incorporates the use of magnets and strong radio waves through the body, thereby creating a very detailed image of the affected spot. As a result, the doctor can more accurately diagnose the severity of the condition, as well as take the right steps to ensure a solid recovery.
Just like what is used on women who are pregnant, ultrasound shows sound waves in soft tissues like tendons, illustrating them in real time as they move throughout the body. It can also be used to check the blood flow, and overall see just how the mechanics are happening in the current state, to determine just how to correct them later on.
Often used for detecting bone problems such as fractures, X-rays might not be the most resourceful option to determine whether or not you have Achilles tendinitis. However, it can be the first step in eliminating other possible conditions you might have, so as to get to the bottom of the problem more quickly than otherwise.
That said, it is strongly encouraged that you communicate well with your doctor about the options to diagnose your Achilles heels, as well as those to help you recover in a safe manner.
Now that you know that you, indeed, have Achilles tendinitis, it is time to take the necessary steps to recover from it. One important thing you will need to know, though, is that it will take time; after all, an injured heel does not get better overnight! Having patience is the key to ensuring a safe and long-term recovery, so that you can get back to playing sports without having to worry that it will come back again.
That said, here are some things you can do to recover from Achilles tendinitis:
Although you might be reluctant to do so, it is necessary to stop running in order to let your muscles and tendons slowly start to repair on their own. Taking time off from your sport will actually make you a stronger, faster runner once you get back into it, for your tendons will have already mended themselves by then. Expect to take a couple of weeks to a few months off.
This popular sports acronym refers to the icing technique as means of reducing swelling in the affected area; hence, you will be applying this to your inflamed Achilles tendon.
RICE stands for “rest, ice, compress, and elevate.” It is a matter of propping your heel on a pillow, applying the ice on top of it, and adding some pressure while keeping it elevated at heart level (meaning that you will need to sit down in the process). Not only will it do a good job of reducing the swelling, but also it will numb the area, so that you can still walk and move around without pain, at least temporarily.
Finally, it is strongly advisable not to leave the ice on for too long, since it can actually start to burn away at the tendons underneath, thereby scarring them. That is why you ought to leave them on for no more than 20 minutes per heel, and limit the ice to once or twice a day.
What we mean is taking over-the-counter (OTC) medicine to help with the inflammation and pain associated from Achilles tendonitis. Medicine such as painkillers (ibuprofen) are the best way to go. Although it only helps temporarily, it is better than having nothing. Just make sure not to accidentally overdose on them; that would be another problem in itself!
We have covered orthotics on our blog, but in any case, it is all the more important to keep your feet and heels supported during the recovery process. Even though you are taking a break from running, you will still be moving around, e.g. walking, to do activities and chores. Aside from getting new running shoes, getting orthotics to support the shape and curve of your foot can help alleviate some pain in the process, thereby making it more bearable to walk around while also slowly assisting your body in recovery.
Often times, Achilles tendinitis happens when other parts of the lower body (e.g. hips, thighs, glutes) are weak, thereby forcing your joints and tendons to make up for it. As a result, it creates unnecessary pressure on these areas, which then leads to injuries.
Therefore, taking time away from running to work on your weaker areas can be beneficial for you. Not only will you rely less on your joints and tendons for support, but also you can run faster and stronger than before. Performing weight-training workouts such as squats, lunges, and deadlifts are the way to go, and soon enough, you should feel stronger and more stable!
Under extreme circumstances, you might want to consider getting surgery. It is essential to talk with your doctor about taking the right precautions, as well as the possible need of physical therapy right afterwards. Think long and hard about this option before you jump in, for it is not guaranteed that everything will be back to normal.
Overall, having Achilles tendinitis is certainly not a desirable aspect to have. By detecting it early on, however, as well as taking the measures to recover, you should be able to get back to running in no time.
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