Running is an important form of exercise that many of us enjoy. Many people run each day, and while it's good for the body, unfortunately it can lead to Achilles tendon pain.
The tendon can quickly become overused, which then causes inflammation and discomfort, making achilles tendon pain and running a bad combination. Thankfully, several forms of treatment and exercises can help you get back up and running.
What is Achilles Tendon Pain?
Achilles tendonitis pain typically occurs due to stress on the Achilles tendon. This pain can happen from running, jumping, working out, or any physical activity that requires use of the tendon.
Symptoms usually can be felt quickly after the injury has taken place. Therefore, you should immediately seek treatment upon feeling pain.
Causes and Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis
The leading cause of Achilles tendonitis is repetitive stress and strain on your Achilles tendon. The Achilles is used in various movement forms, including jumping, walking, and running.
Also, as you age, Achilles becomes weaker. The lack of strength makes it much easier to sustain injury significantly if you have increased your running or play sports every week.
Another cause is not practicing good exercise habits. For example, if you aren’t warming up properly, don’t have proper form, and aren't stretching before your run, you're likely to develop an injured Achilles.
Some risk factors of Achilles tendonitis include:
- Wearing the incorrect shoes during physical activity. If your shoes are worn out or lack the proper support, you increase your risk of injuring your Achilles.
- Certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure or psoriasis, increase the risk of the development of Achilles tendonitis.
- If you consistently run in cold weather or train on a steep hill.
- If you're a male, you have a greater chance of injuring your Achilles
- Certain medications can increase your risk as well. Antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones are known to increase chances.
When symptoms set in, it will typically be at the back of your foot or leg. This pain is usually present after physical activity and is accompanied by swelling and tenderness.
You will also likely experience pain in the morning and some stiffness. However, upon gently moving around, the pain usually lessens.
Some other symptoms include an inability to range motion and tight calves fully. In addition, you may experience worsened pain after sprinting, running, or climbing the stairs.
When to Seek Medical Care
You should seek medical care when the pain is persistent or unbearable. Also, if you have a disability or medical condition, it's essential to seek medical attention right away.
How to Treat Achilles Tendonitis
If you're a runner, resting is the best way to treat Achilles tendonitis. Giving your body a break will allow it to build the strength to help your injury properly heal.
A wonderful method to utilize as your rest is known as the RICE method. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, elevation.
Here's a further breakdown of this method and how it can help your injury heal.
You must stay off your feet during this time, including running. Strenuous activity can easily cause your injury to become much worse. So, stay off your feet no matter how hard it may be.
Decrease inflammation fast by keeping a cold compress on the area. It's best to apply it for 20 minutes three times each day.
Wearing a compression garment as you heal will help to increase blood flow. Increased blood flow will help decrease swelling on your tendon. Bandages, tape, or compression socks can all be used to wrap the Achilles.
Lastly, you need to make sure you prop up your foot. Elevating it will decrease swelling and prevent blood from collecting in your ankle. Prop it up onto a pillow and ensure it's at chest level. You want to try to get the blood flowing away from your ankle and towards your heart instead.
Kinesiology Tape for Healing Your Achilles
An excellent way to help heal your tendonitis is by using kinesiology tape. Kinesiology tape helps to support the injured area by stabilizing the connective tissues.
It assists the injured area in keeping up with the body's movements. Kinesiology tape also assists in promoting the lymphatic system and blood flow to the site, which further helps to cleanse and heal it.
Can You Run with Achilles Tendonitis?
It is possible to continue running with Achilles tendon pain. However, it would be best if you were extremely careful. Also, you want to ensure you start out with short distance runs so as not to do it.
While you're in the process of healing, it helps to stretch. Make sure the stretches are gentle and target your calf.
It also helps to wear tape or compression socks once you start back running. Tape or compression socks will help to promote blood flow and stabilize your ankle.
It's critical that you refrain from over exerting yourself. For example, if you start back running as you heal, you should slow down on running until your tendonitis improves.
If you decide to continue running while you're in pain, you risk making it much worse. In addition, this overexertion can easily lead to the development of chronic tendonitis.
Chronic tendonitis causes even more pain and is more challenging to heal and treat. Also, you run the risk of rupturing your tendon which will only set you back even further.
Pre-Run Care Tips
You can do a few things before you go on a run, as your Achilles tendonitis is healing. However, it's important to keep in mind that you should only try running if you have not experienced any flares.
You can use foam rollers or a warm water pack before bed to assist in loosening your calves. It would be best if you also did this in the morning.
Before you go on your run, use warm water on your tendon. After you're done with your run then, place ice packs on them. It may also help if you have a custom orthopedic shoe created.
Can Achilles Tendon Pain be Prevented?
It isn't easy to prevent Achilles tendonitis due to the underlying cause. For example, if you're an avid runner, you're constantly causing strain and stress to your Achilles.
This constant strain and stress, along with overuse of the tendon, causes the injury. The best way to help practice prevention is by running only a little at one time.
It's critical to practice other forms of cardio aside from running. Giving your body a break will help, along with stretching multiple times a day.
Other ways you can practice prevention include:
- Make sure you're eating healthy. A healthy diet helps to feed your body the proper nutrients for strength. The stronger your muscles are, the better you can prevent injury. Also, if your body is receiving proper minerals and nutrients, it helps your body to heal itself more efficiently.
- Ensure you warm up prior to running. A proper warm-up helps your body prepare for prolonged physical activity. Ultimately, it builds endurance and stamina. Also, be sure to cool down once you're done.
- It's essential to invest in quality running shoes. Poor quality shoes will greatly increase your chances of injury due to lack of support.
- You must ensure you're getting enough rest. Rest allows the body to heal and rejuvenate properly. It helps immensely if you can set aside between 1 to 2 days of rest per week.
Furthermore, it's critical to listen to your body. The moment you feel pain is when you need to take a break.
Even if it's the smallest amount of pain, you should take a couple of days to rest from running. Ignoring any symptoms and deciding to push through can lead to temporary Achilles tendonitis, becoming long-term.
Is It Possible to Speed Up The Healing Process?
You can do a few things to help enhance the healing process.
- If you stretch, be sure to stretch gently. You want to avoid stretching too rough or too often, as this will only worsen your injury.
- Try using a foam roller on your calves to help remove some of the tension. Foam rolling is ideal since it's gentle and doesn't require any pulling or tugging of the tendon.
- Try a range of motion exercises. These will help restore your range of motion without worrying about overexertion. One great move you can try is getting into a kneeling position and stretching your shins.
- It's crucial to wear supportive shoes anytime you run, but it's especially vital when your tendonitis is healing. So, during this time, make sure you're wearing shoes with a high enough heel to support your tendon.
After you have healed, you will be able to run in low heel shoes, or you can try gently running on grass. This will help ease your way back into running in shoes again.
These are all valuable tips, but the best way you can recover is by taking it easy and ensuring you have the proper running shoes. Poor running shoes are a huge factor in developing Achilles tendon pain. So be sure you choose shoes that provide the correct arch and heel support.
Achilles Tendon Pain and Running Treatments
You can undergo two kinds of treatments to help heal your tendonitis. These are aggressive treatments and conservative treatments.
These types of treatments are ones you can do at home, and they are affordable. But, of course, it helps if you're able to do these daily, as often as possible.
- Using a heating pack prior to your run
- Lightly stretching. It's essential to keep it light and don't overexert or overstretch.
- Try eccentric heel drops.
- Use a foam roller to massage your calves.
- Stretch your Achilles while you're asleep by using a foam roller
- Avoid shoes that are flat or don't provide support. Ensure you're walking and running in high heel shoes that offer proper support.
- Try placing heel lifts in your shoes. These are great for slowly getting past the initial beginnings of the injury. Once you recover, you can remove them.
- Practice mobility exercises
- You can sleep with a night splint which will assist in gently stretching your Achilles while you're asleep.
- Keep in mind to avoid taking any anti-inflammatory medications. These will only slow or stop your body's natural ability to release healing agents. These include Ibuprofen and Tylenol.
Aggressive treatments are a little more costly and take more time than conservative treatments. Therefore, these should be used only if the conservative forms of treatment aren't effective.
- A shot of anti-inflammatory steroids. These would be dexamethasone and iontophoresis. Also, this particular treatment would have to be suggested by a physical therapist. A physical therapist would also have to give the shot. This treatment has proven effective since, according to research, it positively affects Achilles injuries.
- This particular treatment isn't precisely proven but great for any runners who orthotics may work well for. The orthotic can assist in relieving pain from pronation.
Other Types of Treatment
Other effective treatment methods include wearing night splints, walking boots, and foot braces.
Night splints are ideal firstly because they are easy to put on. Then, after placing your foot, you fasten the velcro straps.
While sleeping, try to keep your foot at a 90-degree angle. This angle allows the Achilles tendon to stretch while you sleep.
This stretch should be painless; however, if you feel pain, then loosen the velcro straps. Typically the cause of straps that have been over-tightened.
If you try night splints, use and observe them for about two weeks. You should see improvements in terms of your injury pain. If you notice no improvements, then discontinue use.
Foot braces are a great option for those suffering from an Achilles tendonitis injury. However, you must choose the correct choices that will best help improve your damage.
Braces that are designed with pads, for instance, are ideal. These pads are created to compress air right above the injury. Also, these braces typically assist in loosening scar tissue.
In addition to wearing a brace, you should incorporate calf raises. These exercises and wearing these braces will encourage even more healing of the injury.
Walking boots are effective for Achilles tendonitis since they help reduce weight on the injury. This decrease in weight allows the injury to settle and prepare to heal.
However, with walking boots, you should only wear for two weeks. Otherwise, you run the risk of ankle stiffness and calf wasting.
Calf wasting occurs when there is a lack of activity, and the muscles begin to atrophy. It's important to note that movement is essential. So, if you take the route of using a walking boot, ensure you're walking around.