This is Marx Running’s fourth installment in our Injury Guide. The goal is to give practical advice on how to get over the most common running injuries. Up through this point we have covered Plantar Fasciitis, Runner’s Knee (Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome), and Shin Splints. We first give an overview and description of each injury and then provide an action plan on how get healthy again.
What is it? The Achilles tendon runs all the way from your calf down and attaches to the heel bone. It is one of the longest tendons in the body and is made to handle a lot of stress. Achilles Tendonitis occurs when this band of tendon becomes inflamed or develops micro-tears. This is typically due to overuse or repeating a motion over and over (hey, that sounds like running!). Because we are on our feet a lot, even when we’re not running, it makes this injury difficult to heal as we tend to put constant stress on the Achilles.
What are the signs and causes? Overuse, in the form of building mileage too quickly or taking on too many hill workouts too soon can overstress the Achilles and begin to cause inflammation and micro-tearing. Not warming up properly before faster running or strides can also over-strain the area. Having tight calves also contributes to the problem. With Achilles Tendonitis can come swelling behind the ankle and mild to severe pain. It typically becomes a more chronic issue because it is tough to keep stress off of it (because we need to be on our feet a lot). With Achilles Tendonitis will also come a decrease in range of motion of the ankle, and it will hurt to either dorsiflex (flex your ankle to bring your toes up) or stand on your toes. It is common for pain to concentrate about 2-4 cm above the attachment of the Achilles tendon to the heel bone. In a nutshell, you pushed a little bit too hard or built too quickly in your workouts and now your Achilles won’t stop hurting.
How do you fix it? First and foremost, rest is key for this injury to heal. Unfortunately, this is often the most difficult treatment to execute. It’s tough to stay off your feet and truly give the Achilles a break, but this will make the most difference. This is not a “train through it” injury as chronic Achilles problems can become more and more severe. Ice, anti-inflammatory medicines, and compression are other immediate steps to take. Doing calf stretches and calf raises will be very beneficial in speeding up recovery times. For any lower leg injury, doing calf-raises on the edge of a stair will help dramatically. Use pain as a guide, however, as your don’t want to overstretch and cause further micro-tearing. As for footwear, getting a pair of shoes with a higher heel-to-toe drop or putting heel cups in your shoes will take a bit of stress off the Achilles and allow it to heal. Or simply get a new pair of shoes if your current ones are worn out as this could have originally contributed to the problem in the first place. On a final note, good results have been reported with physical therapy treatments based on strengthening and flexibility exercises.
Bottom line: To get over this injury:
- RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation)
- Calf raises and regular stretching of the calf and Achilles
- Shoes with a high heel-to-toe drop or heel cups
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more posts on how to overcome the most common running injuries!