Whether you have just started running, training for a marathon, or running for recreation, injuries happen. There are said to be 5 top injuries that affect most runners: plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, shin splints, chondromalacia, and iliotibial band syndrome. Prevention of these injuries and early treatment are key so they do not affect the entire summer. We have discussed plantar fasciitis in a previous article. For the purpose of this article, we will concentrate on achilles tendonitis.
Achilles tendonitis is as an inflammatory condition of the achilles tendon, the large band, or tendon connecting the calf muscles with the back of the heel bone. When this tendon undergoes too much stress it can tighten and be forced to work too hard. The stress can cause the tendon to become inflamed, which in time can build scar tissue.
Have you felt dull or sharp pain along the back of the ankle? The pain can be felt anywhere along the back of the tendon, however usually it occurs close to the heel. An inflexible ankle with redness or heat over a painful area, a nodule that can be felt on the tendon, and/or a cracking sound with ankle movement all can be indicators of achilles tendonitis. The pain may occur gradually over a few days to months dependent upon the acute vs. chronic state. This also determines whether the pain fades as the run continues and eases with rest or is constant.
Prevention includes stretching, hydration, strengthening, and proper shoe apparel. Remember, a short warm up prior to stretching your calf muscles is important! You should not stretch a cold muscle! If an injury does occur, early detection followed by a short rest from running and rehab will hasten the recovery. Rest from running and seeking the advice of a Physician are the first steps, anti-inflammatory medications, ice, and Physical Therapy to follow. The goal of Physical Therapy is to reduce pain and inflammation, identify and correct the mechanics contributing to the injury, strengthening any muscle imbalances, and education to get you back running. Remember achilles tendonitis can be caused by a muscle imbalance at the hip or knee and that is where the professional guidance may be necessary. If taken care of properly, most injuries only last a few weeks and then you can return to running.