Most cases of sore Achilles tendons are the result of Achilles tendonitis, which can be treated with a self-care protocol known by the acronym R.I.C.E.
You can treat a sore Achilles tendon, which is most often caused by Achilles tendonitis, with a self-care protocol known by the acronym R.I.C.E. that stands for:
- Rest. Avoiding exercises that put a strain on your Achilles tendon. For example, running and swimming. You may need to use walking boots and crutches to minimize the strain on your tendon while walking long distances.
- Ice. A cooling pack, such as an ice pack, wrapped in cloth applied over the sore Achilles tendon for 15 minutes is an effective way to reduce the associated pain and swelling.
- Compression. Wearing wraps or compressive elastic bandages over the Achilles tendon helps diminish its movements and reduce the swelling.
- Elevation. Whenever you rest or sleep at night, raise the affected foot above the level of your heart to reduce swelling.
You can also take over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, to alleviate your pain. However, do not exceed the prescribed dose.
If your signs and symptoms do not improve or worsen, your doctor might suggest other treatment options, such as:
If OTC medications do not help reduce inflammation and relieve pain, your doctor might prescribe stronger medications.
- Steroid injections
- Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections
Physical therapy is important to treat the Achilles tendon because it can help you recover faster.
- Specific stretching and strengthening exercises
- Orthotic devices (a shoe insert or wedge with a cushioning effect)
If the above treatments fail to improve your Achilles tendonitis, surgery to repair the Achilles tendon may be the only option left to resolve the issue permanently.
What are the signs and symptoms of Achilles tendonitis?
If you have developed Achilles tendonitis, you will typically experience a mild ache in the back of the leg or above the heel after activities, such as running and sprinting. You will also have a limited range of motion when you try to flex your foot. More severe pain may arise after prolonged running or climbing stairs.
You might also experience tenderness or stiffness in the back of your heel, especially in the morning. This usually improves after you get up and walk around.
What causes Achilles tendonitis?
The Achilles tendon is the band of tissue that connects your calf muscles to your heel bone. You use this tendon when you walk, run or jump. Overuse of the tendon may put a strain on it, leading to the development of Achilles tendonitis.
Additionally, the Achilles tendon tends to weaken with age. If you suddenly indulge in intense activities, such as long-distance running or exercise intensely only during the weekends, you are more likely to develop a sore tendon.
Factors that increase your risk for developing a sore Achilles tendon include:
- A naturally flat arch in the foot
- Tight calf muscles
- Running in worn-out shoes
- Running on hilly terrain
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Low levels of vitamin D (inadequate vitamin D levels can lead to poor muscle and tendon strength in some cases)
How can you prevent Achilles tendonitis?
In most cases, you may not be able to prevent Achilles tendonitis if you are involved in high-impact sports activities and have one or more of the risk factors above. However, you can reduce your risk by:
- Increasing your exercise level gradually.
- Always warming up before beginning the main exercises.
- Stretching your calf muscles and Achilles tendon in the morning, before and after exercise.
- Performing exercises that strengthen your calf muscles.
- Avoiding activities that put excessive stress on your tendons (for example, hill running).
- Choosing shoes that support your flat arch and provide a cushion.
- Replacing worn-out shoes.
- Get your vitamin D levels checked regularly and take supplements if required.
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American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. Vitamin D Deficiency. https://www.foothealthfacts.org/conditions/vitamin-d-deficiency
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