Is your Achilles tendon aching, throbbing, sore, stiff, or just generally causing you problems? If so, chances are good you’re suffering from a bout of tendinitis.
Although the Achilles is the body’s thickest and strongest tendon, the force loads it has to deal with on a day-to-day basis can be immense, especially if you live an active lifestyle. Unfortunately, this means that injuries to the tendon are fairly common—and if you try to ignore the pain early on, it may lead to chronic pain or even a tendon rupture.
The good news is that Achilles tendinitis rarely requires surgery, especially when you act early. But that doesn’t mean treatment is always simple or straightforward. Because the condition is associated with a variety of different risk factors and contributing causes, finding the best treatment plan for your unique situation requires a deeper understanding of the circumstances.
But not to worry! We’re experts when it comes to Achilles tendinitis treatments. Read on to learn more about some of the treatment options that may be considered.
Sometimes the simplest methods can work wonders—especially in the first few days after you notice pain and discomfort.
RICE stands for:
● Rest. Stop engaging in activities that are causing pain or stressing your Achilles.
● Ice. Use an ice pack to control swelling. It works best for about 15 minutes at a time, right after exercising (or whenever pain is the worst).
● Compression. Try a compression wrap or brace around your foot and ankle to both control swelling and limit painful motion.
● Elevation. Prop your feet up when you rest, ideally above heart level when possible. Put your feet on top of a pillow when you sleep.
Attempt RICE for a few days after you notice pain and then reassess the situation. If the pain is gone, great! If not, or if it keeps coming back again and again, then it’s likely you have a deeper problem triggering the pain that you’ll need to address.
Give Your Feet More Support
Achilles tendinitis is often at least partially the result of feet that aren’t able to shoulder the load of your activities without getting a little extra help from your footwear. This could be because your shoes are lacking, or even because of a biomechanical problem with your feet or gait (such as flat arches or tight calves).
Make sure you always wear shoes that fit your feet and support your activities. That includes sport-specific shoes—so running shoes if you’re a runner, and not just an old pair of gym shoes you pulled out of your closet. This probably goes without saying, but good cushioning and arch support are a must, too.
If pain persists even with new shoes, it may be the case that the default insoles are insufficient and you’ll need orthotic inserts more carefully selected to suit your needs. This would especially be true if you do have a structural issue with your feet, like flat arches. If so, our team can make sure you get an ideal pair that will actually help you—no need to play the guessing game at the pharmacy kiosk!
Other sources of support that may be considered include heel pads, silicone sleeves, athletic braces, and taping.
Stretch and Exercise
In the most basic terms, Achilles tendinitis happens because the tendon wasn’t able to withstand the physical stresses that you placed upon it.
Stretching and exercise can be great ways to help alleviate some of the swelling, tightness, and discomfort you’re currently experiencing and promote healing within the tendon. But the right exercise program will also help strengthen it and improve its flexibility and endurance. This can greatly decrease your risk of future injuries, too.
Notice how we said the “right” exercise plan. Obviously, you don’t want to go overboard with stretches and exercises that harm the tendon and undo the healing that’s already in progress!
This will also be something we go over in detail at your appointment. We’ll give you a firm set of guidelines that you can follow in order to heal as quickly and safely as possible.
How Long Is This Supposed to Take?
The good news is that a majority of Achilles tendinitis cases are treatable without surgery, using the techniques described above (or other conservative treatments we may recommend for your situation).
That said, it might take you a few weeks to a few months to bring about complete results. If you start getting anxious and “cheat” on your treatment guidelines, there’s a very real risk that you’ll end up experiencing a setback in your recovery. So it’s important to be disciplined and stick to the plan!
But if it’s been a couple of months, you’re diligently following your treatment plan, and are still having problems, we may need to start looking into surgical repair of the tendon.
While this is certainly not the outcome that people want, it is only needed in rare circumstances. The long-term success rates are quite good, too—and you’ll be in good hands with our team of highly trained foot and ankle surgeons.
When you start to feel that back-of-leg pain from Achilles tendinitis, don’t hesitate—seek out the experts at Family Foot and Ankle Center in Greater Cincinnati. Let us help you find the best way to repair the damage, stop the pain, and get back to the activities you love. To schedule an appointment, give us a call at (513) 728-4800.