5 Steps to Ending Achilles Aches
Posted by Jenn F. on Monday, June 1st, 2015
The Achilles tendon is set up for failure. Chronic injuries come all too easy, as the healing process itself causes the new tissue to become stiffer and less elastic (and, inadvertently, more prone to damage). Since the lower extremities have a notoriously sluggish blood supply, all foot and ankle injuries are relatively slow to heal. The Achilles tendon also stiffens naturally with age, which is why it’s such a common annoyance for older runners.
The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in Manhattan specializes in all manners of Achilles injuries, be it inflammation, strains, tears, or full ruptures. Today we’ll give you five options for healing those nagging achilles aches, but stop in and see us for a more comprehensive evaluation and rehabilitation using the latest tools the sports medicine industry has to offer.
When you can’t rest, provide support
At the very least, you’ll need to take a break from any rigorous training. Yet, there are a number of supportive braces that may serve you well for lower intensity exercise and simply ambulating around. The Pro-Tec Achilles strap is a good way to take some of the stress off the Achilles. You may prefer a slimmer sock-like design like the CEP brace or the Achimed, which some patients find more comfortable when resting, standing, or walking. An Arctic cold wrap can be placed on the tendon for up to 20 minutes at a time, as often as every hour during intense pain or after exercise. More serious injuries that involve some tearing of the tendon may require stabilization with a ROM walker.
Change your footwear
Oftentimes, we find people with Achilles tendon injuries walking around in shoes that aggravate Achilles tendon pain. Shoes that have stiff soles are an Achilles tendonitis sufferer’s worst enemy. If this area cannot bend appropriately, then the Achilles is placed under increased tension and the calf muscles are forced to work harder when lifting the heel off the ground.
Secondly, shoes that feature excessive heel cushioning can be equally problematic, as the great heel shock absorption features cause the heel to sink in lower, stretching the Achilles as the weight is being shifted forward over the foot.
A better option is a shoe with a little bit of heel elevation but not too much cushioning, and is flexible in the forefoot. You might try a shoe like the ASICS Gel Lyte33, New Balance ML574, Saucony ProGrid Ride 3 or Puma Cell Gen, for starters. Truly the best way to find a quality pair of shoes is to come in for an evaluation and talk to our foot specialists. We are more than happy to help you shop for the right make and model of sneaker.
Our NYC office can fit you with a pair of custom orthotics that forms to the bottom of your feet and makes all your shoes more comfortable, not to mention customized to your unique feet. You should wear these orthotics all the time, even indoors — avoiding excessively flat slippers, flip-flops and tennis shoes.
Consider gait analysis
We find that forefoot strikers suffer the most Achilles tendon injuries, especially individuals who do a lot of speed work or uphill running. Other structural abnormalities like tight hip flexors and early push-off also contribute to more strain being placed on the heel. One study found that weak glute muscles caused internal hip rotation and adduction, which in turn lead to pronation and undue Achilles stress.
Our 3-D computerized gait analysis provides a more in-depth look into your walking and running strides, so we can train you to move in a way that limits strain on your Achilles. One of the benefits of seeing a sports medicine doctor, rather than a general practitioner, is that we look at the total body mechanics and treat the root cause of injury, rather than just addressing the symptoms.
Stretch and strengthen
There is no shortage of strengthening and stretching exercises we can show you. A lot of balance training exercises work the Achilles in a good way, too, so we use them a lot in late-stage recovery and prevention. The real culprit behind many an Achilles injury is weak calf muscles and glutes. We also recommend cross-training to work out different muscle groups. Adding swimming, biking and walking to a running regimen is important to prevent the Achilles from becoming overtaxed. Many patients find it is helpful to use heat therapy before a workout and cold therapy afterward.
Seek advanced high-tech therapies
Here at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in NYC, we offer the latest technological advancements in Achilles pain treatment. We’ve helped countless patients through the use of extracorporeal shockwave therapy, and injection therapy using biopuncture or platelet-rich plasma. These therapies jump-start the body’s natural healing processes. We do not use cortisone injections, as they may weaken the tendon.
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.