If you're an active person, you know exercise is great for your soul, but hard on your body. Running can cause an especially painful condition on the back lower portion of your leg called Achilles tendonitis. It can cramp your workout, and leave you sidelined.
At Phoenix Foot and Ankle Institute, we specialize in injuries and conditions affecting the lower parts of your legs, including your Achilles tendon. Dr. Jeffrey E. McAlister is an experienced foot and ankle surgeon who strives to improve your condition with a variety of advanced treatment options.
All about Achilles Tendonitis
Your Achilles is the large band of tissue, or tendon, that runs down your lower leg to the back of your foot. It's the biggest tendon in the body, and it attaches to your calf muscle and your heel bone. Your Achilles can withstand a lot of heavy activity, such as:
It's also used when you need to stand on your tiptoes. Because this tendon is used in many of these high-pressure movements, it's prone to injury and inflammation. Achilles tendonitis is an overuse injury that normally plagues runners. It causes pain in the back of your leg, along with other symptoms, such as:
- Limited range of motion
- Tight calf muscles
There are actually two types of Achilles tendinitis: insertional tendonitis and non-insertional tendonitis. Insertional Achilles tendonitis occurs when the inflammation affects the part of the tendon that attaches to your heel bone. Non-insertional Achilles tendonitis affects the middle portion of your tendon. The small fibers break down, causing thickening of the tendon along with swelling.
Both types of tendonitis can cause hardening of the tendon fibers, and possibly lead to bone, mostly in insertional Achilles tendonitis. Causes of this problem can vary, but most of the time it’s due to you putting increased stress on your Achilles and overusing it. Knowing what you can do to prevent this painful condition can keep you active and injury-free.
Prevention tips you can follow
If you're able to prevent an injury, it can save you a lot of time and hassle later on. At our facility, Dr. McAlister gives you different strategies and tips you can use to keep your legs in shape while avoiding getting hurt. The following are some things you can do to keep yourself pain-free:
1. Gradually get more active
Many times, Achilles tendonitis strikes when you amp up your workouts too quickly. You can avoid this complication by gradually getting into your workout routine, and slowly increasing the duration.
2. Rest when needed
Make sure you warm up before participating in especially strenuous exercise. You also want to take a break from activities that put a lot of stress on your Achilles tendon, such as running up steep inclines. If you feel pain or discomfort at any point in your exercise, make sure to stop and get rest.
3. Wear comfortable footwear
It may not seem like it, but the shoes you wear for exercise play a very important role in injury prevention. Make sure your shoes are first and foremost comfortable and supportive of the arch in your foot. They should also provide firm support to your heel to keep stress off the tendon. When your shoes get worn out, make sure you replace them.
4. Make stretching a priority
Stretching is important to your daily routine because it helps take the strain off of your muscles and tendons, and also increases flexibility. This is especially important before and after you exercise, to prevent the recurrence of Achilles tendonitis.
5. Switch up your workouts
Constantly doing the same type of high-impact workouts leads to overuse of the tendons and ultimately, injury. By switching up your high-impact workouts with lower-impact activities like swimming or biking, you’ll put less stress on your legs and tendons.
6. Build up your calf muscles
Strengthening your leg muscles, especially in your calf, can take some of the stress off your Achilles tendon. This helps the muscles and tendons work together to take on the pressure of running, jumping, or climbing.
Even though these tips will help you avoid injury, it’s not foolproof, and you can still develop Achilles tendonitis. Treatment focuses on resting the tendon and decreasing the inflammation. Dr. McAlister can discuss treatment options with you at your appointment.
Don't continue to suffer from intense pain in your leg. If you think you might be suffering from Achilles tendonitis, call either of our convenient locations in Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona at 602-761-7819 or book an appointment with us online today.