PROTECTING YOUR ACHILLES
Professional athletes and weekend warriors alike can suffer Achilles injuries. Some of these injuries (for the professionals) can be career ending. An Achilles tendon injury is the type that can be prevented if you recognize the symptoms of possible injury and take steps to avoid further harm. We give you the info you need.
WHY DOES THE ACHILLES TENDON MATTER?
The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in your body. It connects your heel to your calf muscle and is responsible for allowing your foot to flex and extend. In a nutshell, without it your foot doesn’t work.
Think of all the motions that require you to flex and point your foot. Walking, running, jogging, climbing, swimming and more. Many Achilles tendon injuries are caused by tendinitis, in which the tendon becomes swollen and painful. In a severe Achilles tendon injury, too much force on the tendon can cause it to tear partially or rupture completely.
TENDONITIS SYMPTOMS INCLUDE:
- Pain along the back of your foot and above your heel, especially when stretching your ankle or standing on your toes
- Pain that is mild at first and gradually worsens
- Tenderness, swelling or stiffness in the tendon area
A RUPTURE OR TEAR OF THE TENDON CAN CAUSE:
- Abrupt and severe pain
- A snapping or popping noise
- The inability to flex your foot or point your toes
ACHILLES TENDON INJURIES CAN OCCUR IN ANY OF THE FOLLOWING SPORT:
RISK FACTORS FOR AN ACHILLES INJURY INCLUDE:
- Flat feet or foot deformities
- Wearing high heels
- Swelling or pain
- Male older than 30 years of age
SO HOW DO YOU PREVENT THIS INJURY? FIRST AND FOREMOST, IF YOU HAVE TENDONITIS SYMPTOMS – PAY ATTENTION! FOLLOW THE STANDARD PRICE RULE FOR MANY SPORTS INJURIES:
It is also recommended that you stretch before exercising. Most Achilles injuries occur within the first 30 minutes of an activity.
ACHILLES INJURY REHABILITATION
Although surgery is not mandatory after an Achilles tendon rupture, it is the preferred method for people who are relatively young and wish to regain their activity quickly. Even so – it is about a six to nine-month process.
The non-surgical option is to wear a cast which holds the foot in the extended (toes pointed) position. This cast is worn for four weeks. At that time a second cast can replace the first and will hold the foot in a slightly more flexed position. The tendon typically reattaches during this time.
After either the surgical or non-surgical repair, rehabilitation will be needed. This is a gradually increasing regimen of strengthening as additional healing takes place.
- Phase One: Heel raises (1/2 to ¾ inch) in the shoes; sport massage techniques and ultrasound; active and passive stretching.
Remember to apply cold therapy or ice after exercise to help keep inflammation down. Also avoid explosive or ballistic movements (airborne) which can lead to a re-rupture.
- Phase Two: Strengthen the Achilles tendon and calf muscles, always after warming up; stop before pain is uncomfortable; do not increase level of strengthening until the exercise can be completed without any pain; flexibility training continues.