What it is
Inflammation of Achilles tendon.
One of the most common causes of Achilles tendinitis that we see is when people increase their activity level too quickly. Endorphins and adrenaline associated with breakthroughs in exercise can block out important pain signals until it’s too late. Following an appropriate, pre-determined exercise plan can help keep you from over-doing it.
Another common factor is footwear. For many new runners, it’s hard to tell the difference between a $25 running shoe and a $150+ running shoe. While they may look to have the same style and function on the outside, cheap shoes usually lack the support needed to prevent Achilles issues. If you’re new to being active, we highly recommend checking out a running store with shoe fitting services and trying several pairs to find the best one for you.
Other people buy quality shoes, but then keep wearing them long past their useful lifespan. This is another example where what might “look ok,” and what is actually going to do the job are quite different. A good rule of thumb is to replace your running shoes every 250-400 miles. For some people, that may take several years, while a few people will burn through that mileage in a matter of a couple months.
- Increasing activity level too quickly
- Running in low-quality or worn out shoes
- Flat feet
- Age / Sex – older and male
How We Treat Achilles Tendinitis
Rest, Ice, Strengthen & Stretch
For first time cases, the simplest treatment is where we generally start. If Achilles tendinitis is caught early enough, a simple of approach of rest, icing and stretching may reduce tendon inflammation within a week or two.
Rest is important for two reasons. First, it’s important to let the inflammation subside so the tendon can properly heal. However, resting is also a good time to evaluate and correct why the injury occurred in the first place. Do you need to ramp up your activity level a bit slower? Do you need to warm up or cool down more thoroughly? Are your shoes up to the task? Taking a break can help you make sure you don’t continue to experience the same problem repeatedly.
Icing is one of the classic “go-tos” when it comes to reducing inflammation. You can put an ice pack directly on the area of pain, or even immerse your entire lower leg in a bucket of ice water. We usually recommend icing two to three times a day for 10-20 minutes each time. Ice should be cold, but not painfully so. Make sure to give your Achilles tendon several minutes to warm up before attempting to stand, and wait until it has returned to normal temperature and flexibility before trying to walk or stand for long periods.
Achilles tendinitis often results from tight calf muscles, so an ongoing, thorough stretching routine can both help recovery and prevent the condition from repeating. Stretching ranges form the basic “runner’s stretch” (leaning against a wall with your leg extended behind you) to more complex strengthening routines that help reduce strain on your Achilles.
Insoles / Orthotics
Even high-quality shoes often come with the cheapest, flimsiest insoles. If you’re dealing with pain from Achilles tendinitis (or plantar fasciitis) high-quality or custom insoles can help provide support for your heel and reduce strain on the Achilles tendon.
We carry high-quality insoles from PowerStep, and are also able to order custom-fit orthotics for the best possible comfort and support tailor-made for you.
Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP)
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) gives us an additional option to help the Achilles tendon heal before resorting to surgery.
In a PRP procedure, we draw your blood and spin it in a centrifuge. This causes the blood platelets to concentrate at the top of the vial (the golden-yellow liquid in the picture above).
Blood platelets contain growth factors, which help to repair damaged tissue in the body. In addition to using them to treat Achilles tendinitis, we also use PRP to treat plantar fasciitis, and osteoarthritis in all major joints of the body.
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