Whether you are a seasoned sportsman or getting back into the rhythm of exercise, you mustn’t overexert yourself and cause a strenuous injury.
The Achilles tendon, in particular, is prone to overexertion or injury due to its heavy use during running or jumping, and improper treatment of Achilles tendinopathy can lead to slower healing and further complications down the line.
So, in this article, we will be discussing how you can treat and manage Achilles tendinopathy and the exercise and remedies you can do to help with the healing process.
What Is The Achilles Tendon?
One of the strongest tendons in the human body, the Achilles tendon is a thick, fibrous tissue that attaches the calf muscles to the heel. The Achilles tendon allows for movement of your foot (such as pointing your toes) and transmits forces from your calf muscle to your foot for actions such as walking, running or jumping.
While strong, the Achilles tendon is also prone to injury due to the high amount of stress placed on it during movement and its limited blood flow.
What Is Achilles Tendinopathy?
Achilles tendinopathy is an inflammation or irritation of the Achilles tendon caused by overuse and increased demand on the said tendon, usually manifesting as pain and stiffness in the back of the heel and ankle.
While anyone can be susceptible to Achilles tendinopathy, it is more common in people who have recently engaged in high-intensity exercises such as jogging or jumping sports.
Treatment and Management Of Achilles Tendinopathy
The primary management strategy for relieving Achilles tendinopathy is reducing the amount of stress placed on the tendon, which involves reducing activities that place a high strain on the tendon. Inability to do so will only aggravate the injured area and slow down the healing process.
If you are the athletic type, consider substituting more high-intensity exercises with gentler ones such as swimming or cycling. Wearing supportive shoes with good arch support can also help.
You can also opt for osteopathic or remedial massage treatments, which can be beneficial in reducing pain, lowering inflammation and muscular tension, and improving the overall mobility of the ankle and foot area.
Achilles tendinopathy takes time to heal from, so be patient and make sure the tendon is fully recovered before returning to your usual sporting routine.
Exercises and Remedies To Ease Achilles Tendinopathy
1. Applying Ice
If you find that your tendon is inflamed (swollenness or heat on the back of your ankle), apply an ice pack to the area to help reduce the inflammation. The cold will constrict surrounding blood vessels and reduce circulation, which will help ease the pain and swelling.
Have the ice on the area for around 15 to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours until the inflammation subsides.
2. Heat And Self-Massage
If you find your tendon stiff or sore but not inflamed, you could try increasing blood flow with a heat pack or a massage with an anti-inflammatory cream. Both heat and osteopathic treatments will improve blood circulation to the area and help reduce stiffness.
Heat treatments and massages are beneficial if the tendon has not been used for some time, such as getting out of bed in the morning or prolonged sitting.
Word of warning, do not apply a heat pack to your tendon if it is swollen or if you have injured it within 48 hours. In this case, an ice pack would be the more viable solution.
3. Ankle Mobilisation
You can reduce the risk of Achilles tendinopathy by keeping your ankle mobile, especially if you have been inactive for an extended time. Loosen up your foot and ankle by circling your ankles clockwise and counter-clockwise. You can also pull your toes up and point them to get some movement into your feet and ankles before you start walking on them.
4. Stretch Your Calf
If you have warmed up and your tendon does not feel inflamed or painful, gently stretching your calf muscles can help take some pressure off the Achilles tendon.
To do this:
- Stand with your hands against a wall, with one foot in front of the other and the front knee slightly bent.
- Straighten your back knee with the heel firmly on the ground and lean towards the wall.
- Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, and then switch legs.
Stop stretching if you feel any pain in the Achilles tendon area. Do also note that performing this stretch while the tendon is inflamed, stiff or sore will further aggravate it and cause it to take longer to heal.
Looking To Treat Achilles Tendinopathy?
Here at the Healing Hands osteopathic treatment centre in Croydon, we offer hands-on treatment, management strategies, and further advice to decrease your pain. Book an appointment with us today, so our team of expert osteopaths and massage therapists can help!
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