Preventing and Treating Achilles Injuries
posted on 8/21/14
Achilles injuries are truly a pain! (photo credit: Thinkstock/Purestock)
About 8 to 15% of all runners have dealt with Achilles injuries. The fad of Vibram Five Fingers shoes (those shoes that make you look like you have cartoon feet) and other low-profile thin-soled shoes may have increased those numbers.
Aside from insufficient footwear, Achillis injuries, mainly tendinitis and tendonosis, are often accompanied by a sudden increase in intensity and distance in training. The best way to avoid it is to increase mileage and intensity gradually, and be diligent about stretching your calves after at least a ten minute warmup and after your run. This will help reduce strain on the Achilles. Be sure your shoes have proper cushioning in the heel, and if you're prone to injury, using cushioned insoles can help, according to a recent study.
If you have Achillis tendinitis, the best way to get rid of it as quickly as possible is to first stop running, at least for a few days. That's the hardest thing for many runners to do. Additionally, ice it 15 to 20 minutes several times a day, take anti-inflammatories like aspirin or ibuprofin, and include natural anti-inflammatories like ginger and unsweetened cherry juice. Gently massaging the area can help some too. Continue to do calf stretches, and strengthening exercises such as toe raises. Once you can do those without pain, try graduating to skipping rope or jumping jacks. Ideally within two weeks you will be ready to start running. Sometimes you can develop enough scar tissue that it becomes tendonosis, which may require additional help via physical therapy. Surgery is usually not recommended is it can result in more scar tissue.
It can be frustrating, especially if you're stubborn and will not stop running. About 8 years ago I had to deal with that for a year, and it worsened into tendonosis, and had to stop running for three weeks and go to physical therapy. I've managed to avoid it since by doing my stretches, rotating between two or three different pairs of shoes and not using them past 400 miles, and running on soft trails or grass whenever possible.
Got a story about how you overcame your Achilles injury? Share below!
Tony has been a runner for over three decades, competing in cross country and track in high school and college, and road races for various clubs. He's served as team captain for several Corporate Challenge teams at YMCA of the USA, and has informally coached many friends over the years.
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