How Runners Can Better Protect Their Achilles
The Achilles is a tendon that connects your two major calf muscles to the heel bone. When it is placed under too much stress, which is a common occurrence for runners and other athletes, it can become less flexible and even inflamed. An inflamed Achilles tendon can eventually tear, which is why any runner should take steps to protect their Achilles and recognize the symptoms of inflammation before they get to be too much.
Knowing the Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis
The inflammation of the Achilles is also known as Achilles tendonitis. It is an acute condition that is characterized by a dull or sharp pain along the tendon itself. The pain is usually felt near the heel, but it can be felt anywhere along your lower leg. Other symptoms may include decreased ankle flexibility, redness over the painful area,cracking ankles, and a nodule that can be felt on the tendon. This nodule is a buildup of scar tissue that can sometimes cause a crackling sound when your ankle moves.
Protecting Your Achilles and Avoiding Tendonitis
Achilles tendonitis is caused by tight or fatigued calf muscles, which in turn, can be brought on by not stretching properly before a run, or pushing yourself too hard too quickly. Pushing yourself too hard could mean simply running along a flat surface for too long, or it could mean excessive hill running or speed work, both of which stress the Achilles tendon more than a simple jog. Inflexible running shoes can also cause Achilles tendonitis by forcing the tendons to twist while running.
The best way to protect your Achilles tendons is to stretch and strengthen your calf muscles before you start running. A simple stretching exercise is to stand on the balls of your feet on a stair or curb with your legs straight. Drop both heels down as low as they can go, and hold them there for a count of ten. If you want to increase the intensity of the stretch, lower one heel at a time.
If you start to experience pain in your Achilles, stop running. Ice the painful area for 15 to 20 minutes every day until the inflammation goes down. Until you can stretch your calf muscles without feeling pain, don't run. Find a more low-impact exercise such as swimming or biking. As the pain subsides, gradually start running again with proper running shoes that provide plenty of support.
If you continue to experience chronic Achilles pain, ask your doctor for advice. There are treatments available such as chiropractic, or even surgery that can relieve some of the pain associated with Achilles tendonitis. As always, listen closely to your own body, and stop when you think it's had enough.
Eileen O'Shanassy is a freelance writer and blogger based out of Flagstaff, AZ. She writes on a variety of topics and loves to research and write. She enjoys baking, biking, and kayaking. Check out her Twitter @eileenoshanassy. For more information on mediating achilles pain a Charlotte chiropractor recommends icing and heat.