Besides your heel getting the name from the Greek Hero, Achilles, it also has a common injury for runners known as Achilles Tendonitis. It is a common condition that causes pain down the back of the leg near the heel. Besides being the largest tendon in the body, it connects your calf muscles to your heel bone and is used when you walk, run, and jump. Although the Achilles tendon can handle great stresses from running, it is also prone to tendonitis, a condition associated with overuse.
In other words, tendonitis is inflammation of a tendon. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury, and often causes swelling, pain, or irritation. There are two types of Achilles tendonitis, based upon which part of the tendon is inflamed.
In Noninsertional Achilles tendonitis, fibers in the middle portion of the tendon have begun to break down with tiny tears, swell, and thicken. Insertional Achilles tendonitis involves the lower portion of the heel, where the tendon attaches to the heel bone.
- The lack of flexibility.
- Sudden increase in the amount of distance or intensity in running.
- Having tight calf muscles.
- Bone spur. An extra bone growth where the Achilles tendon attaches to the heel bone can rub against the tendon and cause pain
- Pain and stiffness along the Achilles tendon in the morning
- Thickening of the tendon
- Swelling that gets worse through out the day with normal activity
- Severe pain after running and lingers for days afterwards
- Experience the most significant pain after periods of inactivity.
- Severe pain on the heel
As you may already know, it is incredibly painful, and annoying in your daily life, and can persist for years. Every time you move your ankle, the tendons move too,when you have tendonitis, moving hurts! Even the slightest weight on your ankle can be extremely painful. Once the Achilles tendon is injured, continuing to exercise and strain it means that 100% recovery is almost impossible without proper therapy. Eventually, if left untreated, a complete rupture of the tendon may result and treatment becomes even more difficult at that point.
So hopefully most of you who are dealing with this pain in the heel, will not ignore it and try to correct it and treat it right away. Here are some ways to treat and strengthen your calf, and prepare your heel properly for a run.
- Rest, Ice, Compress,Elevate!!!! I talk about this ALL the time for treatment to all running injuries. It is very important and VERY helpful in the aid of recovery. Make sure you rest your foot enough,wrap an ace bandage tight around your heel with an ice pack, and make sure to elevate it about your heart for the blood to flow. Leave this for at least 20 minutes after running.
- doing a calf stretch is awesome as it strengthens your calf muscle, and reduces the stress on your Achilles tendon. There are a few calf stretches you can do such as: Put the calf you want to stretch behind you, being sure to keep your heel pressed to the floor and the leg extended without bending the knee. The other leg is in a lunged forward position in between the wall and the extended leg. Keeping your heel down, slowly bend your elbows and lean forward.
- STEP DROP STRETCH Find a street curb or stairway step. Place the ball of your foot on the end of the ledge. Slowly drop your heel down while keeping the ball of your foot on the step. Be sure and support yourself if you can or have someone to grab onto. Once you get the hang of it you should be able to do this stretch without any assistance. As you bring your heel down, be sure not to force it further than it wants to go. Your goal is to be able to have your heel touch the ground, but this may take time.
- Sit with one leg straight and one bent. Bring your heel close to your buttocks. Keeping your heel on the ground, pull your foot toward your body.
- Sit with both legs straight. Loop a resistance band or towel around the ball of one foot and grasp each end of the rope. Flex your foot back toward your ankle, toes toward your knee. This one is an “AAhhhh” stretch. I love it
- This one is tough to explain but I have a picture. Get on all fours on the ground with your butt in the air. Have one foot flat on the ground and place your other foot on top of it. You will feel a GOOD stretch. Hold for 20-30 seconds and switch. This is my favorite calf stretch because it feels great and relieves the muscle!
- FOAM ROLL!! You can use the massager roller or foam roller and use it on your calf. You can sit on the floor and place your calf on it and roll until you feel relief. Using the massager, just roll it up and down your calf with comfortable pressure. This can help loosen the knots. =)
- and of course there is KT TAPE!!! There are a few different applications for the Achilles area, so make sure to check the one you are using is the one needed for your injury.
Just remember, these are just a few ways to overcome Achilles tendonitis, I have only listed a few but the most useful of the stretches and techniques. Hope this helps those battling with this pain.