Achilles tendon pain is a common running injury that affects the lower calf/heel area. This injury can flare up when the calf or achilles tendon is strained during a hard workout or a race. The reason that the injury can be troublesome is because the achilles tendon does not have a great blood supply, and, therefore, once it is over-extended or torn, it does not heal easily.
Causes Of Achilles Tendon Pain
The primary cause for achilles tendon pain is running too much too soon. The injury can develop if you overtrain by suddenly increasing hill workouts or speed workouts, such as tempo runs or fartleks without giving your body time to adapt to the increased workload. So make sure you gradually include such workouts into your training. Achilles tendon pain can also occur after a runner first uses spikes for a race on a hilly course. Spikes cause runners to run on their toes, which puts a lot of pressure on the achilles tendon. Therefore, it’s important to try to “break in” spikes by using them in a workout before lacing them up for a race.
How to Treat and Cure an Achilles Tendon Pain
Treating achilles tendon pain can be difficult. The tendon can be very slow to heal because of the small amount of blood it receives. Nevertheless, give these remedies a try:
RICE: One of the best ways to treat achilles tendon pain is to use the RICE method. The first letter, R, stands for “Rest.” It is important that you take a few days off if you feel pain in your achilles tendon. Only begin running again if you can run pain-free. The second letter, I, stands for “Ice.” The best way to ice your achilles tendon is to freeze water in a plastic cup. When frozen, take out the round block of ice and roll it over your painful area for 10 minutes. The third letter, C, stands for “Compression.” After icing your achilles, wrap it up in an ace bandage or towel. The fourth letter, E, stands for “Elevation.” With your achilles wrapped up, lie on your back and place your foot on a chair. Try to elevate the compressed achilles for at least 10 minutes. Repeat the RICE method as often as possible. However, be careful not to ice your achilles for more than 10 minutes at any one time because you could get frostbite if you freeze the skin for too long.
Treat achilles tendon pain with NSAIDs: “NSAID” stands for Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug. These drugs include aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. NSAIDS help to reduce inflammation in injured areas of the body, which can help to lessen pain. It is important to limit the intake of NSAIDs for a specific injury to a short period of time (less than two weeks). This is because NSAIDs can be very hard on the kidneys.
Gentle stretching: Once you start to feel some relief from your achilles tendon pain, try to incorporate some light stretching. Lean against a wall and try to gentle stretch your calf.
Run in good shoes: A common cause of achilles tendon pain is running on old, worn out shoes. As a rule of thumb, try to buy new running shoes every 500 miles.
See a professional: If the above methods do not cure your achilles tendon pain, try to see a sports medicine physician or physical therapist as soon as possible. You may have a structural or bio-mechanical issue that needs professional treatment.
Keep a running log: One good way to prevent achilles tendon pain is to keep a detailed running log of your prior training. Keeping a running log allows you to track your running and uncover possible errors that may have caused injuries like achilles tendon pain. For example, a running log will help you determine if your injury could be caused by rushing into too much mileage.
How to Prevent Achilles Tendon Pain
Perhaps the most critical prevention technique, besides easing into intense workouts, is to make sure that the calf muscles are adequately stretched. Before and after running, use the “wall stretch”, where you place both hands on a wall, with one foot in front of the other, and lightly stretch the calf. Try to hold the stretch for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, and then stretch again for 30 seconds – the goal is to get the muscle as loose as possible. Keep in mind that a tight calf is the best indicator that your achilles is about to be injured.
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