Summer Achilles Tendinopathy
Summer is my favorite season in Seattle. I love the long daylight hours, late night happy hours, and BBQ’s. What I love the most is the warm sun shining down on me during hikes, and running in the evenings. The problem with having 3 months of gorgeous weather is having 9 months of weather that makes you want to stay inside, put on Netflix, and drink a cup of hot chocolate. I’ve noticed that there’s a common occurrence of injuries in athletes or people who train on a regular basis. This can be a particular problem for some runners, due to overuse of the Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon located right behind the heel. The tendon joins the foot to the calf muscles. The primary function of the Achilles tendon is to assist the foot downwards (plantar flexion).
What is Achilles tendinopathy?
Achilles tendinopathy is a condition to the Achilles tendon. Generally there is pain, swelling, or stiffness to the tendon. This condition is caused by repeated, small injuries to the Achilles known as microtrauma. This damage over a period of time to the Achilles from the tendon not healing completely after each injury can lead to Achilles tendinopathy.
What are the symptoms for Achilles tendinopathy?
- Pain and stiffness in the Achilles tendon: In the morning, pain and stiffness is often worse.
- Pain during exercising: Pain will also feel worse after exercise. Runners tend to feel the pain in the beginning of their run. Some runners report the pain lessen during the actually run and then becomes worse after their run.
- Pain due to Achilles tendinopathy may actually prevent you from being able to carry out your usual everyday activities such as walking to the shops, etc.
- You may notice that you have pain when you touch the area around your Achilles tendon. There may also be some swelling around this area.
What things can cause injuries to the Achilles tendon?
- Running: In general, any activity that overuses the Achilles tendon can lead to Achilles tendinopathy. Activities include tennis, dancing, or sports that require a lot of jumping.
- Wearing the wrong shoes during training or exercising.
- Having improper training or exercising techniques: I’ve seen patients with poor running techniques due to weakness in the hips. Because of their weak hips, they overuse their hamstrings, and calves while the run.
- Overtraining: Sometimes increasing your intensity especially if you train often can lead to injuries.
- Training on hard surfaces: Running on concrete.
What do you do if you have Achilles tendinopathy?
- Rest your Achilles tendon: Try to avoid running, jumping, climbing stairs or any activities that puts stress on the tendon. I would recommend swimming to get your Achilles tendon a rest for a few weeks.
- Ice your Achilles to help reduce pain.
- Gentle stretching and strengthening exercises.
- Do not use tobacco products: Smoking can decrease your blood supply and slow down tissue repair.
- Wear proper footwear: Wear shoes that can support your arches and gives comfort to your heels. Try orthotics for footwear support.
- Wear a night brace to keep your foot in a flexed position
- If you are unsure of your condition and it gets worse, go see your doctor or physical therapist.