The achilles tendon is named after the strongest, most fearless Greek warrior, Achilles, who was fatally wounded by an arrow to his heel. The name is fitting since the achilles tendon is the thickest and strongest tendon in the body, which is subject to a person’s entire body weight with each step, and up to 12X a persons body weight during a sprint. However, pain in your achilles tendon, though it may not be fatal to your existence, can definitely become fatal to your activity level if not treated properly.
There are a variety of reasons someone will have pain around their Achilles, however the most common is Achilles tendonosis. Most have referred to this issue as a tendonitis in previous years, however, it has been realized that there really is no inflammation as the name tendonitis would suggest. There is however a chronic degeneration of the Achilles tendon as a tendonosis would suggest. Achilles tenondosis pain is a chronic injury where small scale injury to the tendon accumulates over time without proper healing. Symptoms include soreness and stiffness that comes on gradually and continues to worsen until the issue is treated. There may be a creaking when you initially stand to walk or pain when the Achilles tendon is squeezed. Initially it may not limit your activities, but if not treated it can develop to a point where it is painful all day and limits what you can do. The sooner the tendonosis is treated the quicker it will resolve.
When you first feel pain in your Achilles, relative rest is important, and you may want to try an alternate activity for a time being, then return to your original activity gradually after the appropriate rest period. Second, it is important to stretch. Hips, back, legs and of course calf tightness can all have an effect on the function of the Achilles tendon. If you are very tight, you may want to consider getting a massage from a Registered Massage Therapist. Also strengthening the antagonist muscle group (Tibialis Anterior), can assist in helping stretch the Achilles tendon. Eccentric strengthening, which will help strengthen the Achilles tendon is also very important. A temporary heel lift or orthotics can also be very beneficial in treating chronic cases of Achilles tendonopathies.
In order to prevent Achilles tendon pain, stay in overall good shape, including a balanced diet, plenty of water, enough sleep, no smoking, limit caffeine & alcohol, make any changes to your routine gradually, remember to warm up, stretch and exercise regularly and take care of any foot or leg biomechanical issues. If you are experiencing any pain in your heel and/or Achilles tendon area get assessed by a medical professional to determine the root cause of the problem.
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