Understanding Achilles Tendonitis and What Every Runner Should Do

Just last week, South Africa’s planned campaign and participation at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow took a big blow when it’s main man, Lusapho April pulled out from the competition citing an Achilles injury.

In a statement, April said that this was a big letdown, and he was looking forward to participating in the event. He advised that this condition will take a few weeks to heal and could even take a few months.

Achilles Tendonitis is a Common Injury Among Runners

April’s condition and his failure to participate in future running events are nothing new. Runners and sports enthusiasts face different risks when practicing and preparing, but there are some risks that are more pronounced and common. An example of this is Achilles tendonitis, a foot injury that causes swelling and rupture on the tendons. This injury will usually affect runners and players involved in other sporting disciplines who normally do fast training, run uphill or rely on the forefoot-striking style. In short, if there is too much pressure on the tendon then there’s a big chance that the condition will develop. There are three important causes of Achilles tendonitis among runners and those who are into heavy sporting activities.

If there’s a sudden increase in the intensity of running or other activity. This will normally develop in a person who increases workout or running intensity without allowing his body the opportunity to gradually adjust to the new pace

Having tight calf muscles and adapting an aggressive exercise routine.

Extra bone growth. When there’s a bone spur in the area where the tendon and heel bone connects, then there’s a big chance that this growth can rub against the tendon thus producing the painful sensation.

According to statistics, Achilles Tendonitis accounts for 5 to 12 percent of all running injuries, and most of the time this injury happens among men. There are a number of reasons as to why this injury affects men more than women. Some researchers suggest that men tend to train at higher speeds, or it can also be due to selected biomechanical factors.

One of the problems with Achilles tendonitis is that runners will not immediately notice its presence. This will normally start with dull stiffness that can be felt in the tendon.  This tends to go away as soon as the affected area has been warmed up. The condition will eventually worsen as soon as the runner starts to increase his speed, tackles an uphill climb or when he constantly wears low-heeled shoes. If these practices are continued then there’s a big chance that the pain will become more pronounced, thus preventing the runner to even walk or jog lightly.

Most of the Achilles tendonitis cases will target the midpoint of the tendon, and the rest of the runners’ complaints will center near the heel bone, called insertional Achilles tendonitis. The insertional tendonitis is more dangerous, since the small fluid sac found near the tendon can get irritated.





Common Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis to Watch Out For

There are different signs to watch out for if you are a heavy runner or you are into intense training program or activities. A common sign is that feeling of stiffness or even pain in the Achilles tendon every morning. Also, this pain will eventually worsen when the person considers a more intense exercise program.  If there is thickening of the tendon or persistent swelling that is continually present, then these are signs that suggest the development of Achilles Tendonitis. If you feel a sudden pop near the heel or calf, then you may have ruptured your tendon. If this is the case, then it’s best to contact a doctor for examination and further tests.

How Achilles Tendonitis Is Examined

Once you consult with a professional, expect that a thorough physical examination of the foot and ankle will be made. The attending doctor will normally look for swelling at the back of the heel or on the Achilles tendon. The type of tendonitis will be confirmed by checking the presence of bone growth at the lower part of tendon, or by checking if there is pain in the tendon. The location of the pain will determine the specific type of Achilles tendonitis, whether it’s an insertional tendonitis or non-insertional tendonitis.

To confirm if indeed the pain and other symptoms are related to Achilles tendonitis, the doctor may require an imaging test through x-ray or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

What You Can Do To Help Alleviate the Pain and Address Achilles Tendonitis

If the condition has been confirmed, the attending doctor will order a treatment program depending on the severity of the problem. In many cases, surgery and the use of cortisone injections will be used as the popular ways to treat the pain and rupture in the tendon. But the use of cortisone injections is often considered in rare cases since these can cause more rupture in the tendon.

There are non-surgical and safe approaches to treating pain and the rupture on the tendons. These non-surgical treatment options will usually take time before relief can be realized, but the great thing is that these are invasive and safe.

One popular approach to treatment is through the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. You can count on medications like naproxen and ibuprofen to alleviate the swelling and the pain. The problem is that this will not reduce the thickening of the tendon, thus not a comprehensive approach to treating Achilles tendonitis.

A simple placement of ice in the most affected area can also help reduce the swelling and the pain. An ice pack that can be placed on the affected area for at least 20 minutes can help address the pain. The amount of time in using the ice pack can be cut short if there’s numbing of the skin.

There are exercise programs too that can be tapped in managing the pain and swelling of the tendons. Calf stretch and physical therapy sessions are also great solutions against tendon rupture.

Perhaps the most effective treatment approach is adequate rest, and this is something that star runner Lusapho April will do soon. April will be sidelined for the next few weeks or even months, but with the right treatment steps and adequate rest, the swelling and pain will be all gone.

And this is something that every runner should also do in case there’s a ruptured tendon accompanied by pain- understand what comes with Achilles tendonitis, learn the best treatment options and to get adequate rest.


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