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Combating Achilles Tendonitis in Runners

Achilles Tendonitis in Runners

We often see Achilles tendonitis in runners at our clinic. Elite male distance runners have a 52% risk of developing it in their lifetime. If left untreated, Achilles tendonitis can lead to significant pain and limit your ability to run.

What is Achilles Tendonitis?

Achilles tendonitis (or tendinopathy) is an overuse injury. It results from repetitive micro-tears in the long tendon that connects the heel bone to the calf muscle. This degradation causes swelling, inflammation, and pain in the back of the leg above the heel. 

Treating Achilles Tendonitis in Runners

There are several ways to treat Achilles tendonitis. For mild cases, the pain may respond to self-care options. If not, physical therapy can help with stretches and exercises to improve strength and mobility. There are also more invasive medical procedures for severe cases.   

At-Home Care

Runners can start by treating their pain at home with the RICE method—rest, ice, compression, and elevation. It’s always good to wear supportive shoes and avoid walking barefoot. Seek medical attention if the pain doesn’t disappear in a day or two.

Physical Therapy for Achilles Tendonitis 

A physical therapist will start by assessing your individual needs. Then they will identify possible factors that lead to injury and come up with management strategies. Gentle exercise and range-of-motion treatments can help you reduce pain and regain function. Next, your PT will work with you to develop a recovery plan to get you up and running safely. 

Other Medical Interventions

One medical option is an injection that breaks up scar tissue on the tendon. Surgery is the last resort when all other treatments fail. Talk to your health care provider to determine the right treatment plan. 

How to Prevent Achilles Tendonitis

Many runners will experience Achilles tendonitis in their lifetime. And it’s crucial to take steps to reduce the risk. One of the most common factors leading to Achilles tendonitis is a sudden increase in training, so you should try increasing duration and intensity gradually. Follow these tips when running to maintain a healthy Achilles tendon.

  • Wear supportive shoes
  • Stretch daily 
  • Increase training slowly
  • Get adequate rest
  • Cross-train

Can I run with Achilles tendonitis?

Achilles tendonitis is an overuse injury, and exercise can worsen the symptoms. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop running altogether. Instead, in mild and moderate cases, you can take precautions to reduce the risk of exacerbating the injury:

Warm up with a dynamic warm up before running.
Set a moderate pace and stop if you experience significant pain. 
Follow each run with stretches, icing, and proper rest.

When to See a Doctor for Achilles Tendonitis 

Achilles tendonitis in runners is a severe problem. However, prevention, treatment, and maintenance will help you stay on your feet. See your medical provider if at-home remedies don’t alleviate pain in a few days. At Churchill Orthopedic Rehabilitation, our running program provides individualized support and feedback to help runners prevent and recover from injury. Schedule an appointment online today.

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