Achilles Injury? It doesn’t need to be the end of the road!

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Achilles injury: it doesn’t need to be the end of the road…

Achilles tendon injuries can be one of the most difficult running overuse injuries to overcome and if not managed correctly can be “career ending.”

But don’t panic: the chances are extremely high that, with the correct treatment regime, your Achilles injury can be overcome.

What makes runners prone to Achilles injuries?

One of the reasons Achilles tendon injuries often don’t clear with time alone is that the healing process in that particular tissue actually makes it stiffer and less elastic, which makes it even more susceptible to re-injury during running.  The Achilles tendon also becomes stiffer as we age, which is why Achilles injuries are especially common in older runners.

Is your foot strike style to blame?

A forefoot landing style is commonly seen in Achilles injury sufferers, as this landing style puts tremendous strain (from control of lowering the heel) on the Achilles tendon. Faster runners are also more prone to these injuries, as stress on the Achilles tendon increases geometrically as running speed increases.  Even slower runners are more likely to injure their Achilles tendons when doing speed work.

Rest alone won’t sort out your injury:

Rest alone allows the damaged tissues to heal, but does not correct the underlying cause of the injury.  So while you may need to stop running for a time when dealing with the injury, you should not simply rest.  In this case, when you return to running the pain will almost definitely return.

Specialist physiotherapy will get you back up and running:

An experienced physio should confidently know from examination what is causing the pain and therefore the most appropriate treatment plan to resolve it.  The treatment plan must be tailored specifically to the person as there is no one treatment plan for everyone with Achilles pain because there are so many different reasons for it starting in the first place.  The sooner you take action and get treatment with this type of injury, the sooner you will be back running pain free again.  As well as hands-on physio treatment, a programme of stretches for your calf muscles and Achilles tendons should be done twice a day with heel dip exercises on a step once dailly.  This will help correct muscle imbalances in the lower legs and minimise the loss of elasticity in the tissue as it heals.

A biomechanical assessment may help prevent future injury:

At Apex Clinic, our specialist sports physiotherapists can work with you to identify and correct any other muscle imbalances and stride abnormalities that may have contributed to your injury.  An ‘over pronated’ foot position (tendency to flat feet) can place excessive strain on the Achilles and it may be beneficial to wear orthotics (insoles) in future to help correct the problem.  If the ankle joint or joints of the foot are stiff, a physiotherapist may mobilise them to restore the normal range of movement.

Don’t ignore early warning signs of Achilles pain:

With the correct treatment regime you have every chance of a good recovery from Achilles injury, even if you’ve had it for years.  It is important to rehabilitate the tendon properly after injury to avoid recurrence, so go easy on the speed and hill work initially and build these back into your regime slowly.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore the early warning signs of this injury and run through the pain instead of seeking help, as this will encourage the problem to become longstanding and slower to clear.  Ignoring Achilles pain can also make the Achilles tendon more likely to rupture during a run, which is a runner’s worst nightmare.  Get help today!