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Achilles Tendonitis Treatment Guide

by Patty Weasler, RN November 18, 2020 0 Comments

foot night splint

The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in your body. Despite its strength and size, it is still susceptible to tendonitis. Achilles tendonitis treatment can start in the home with a few simple and effective methods. For more severe cases, medical treatment may be necessary. Here we will cover all your Achilles tendonitis treatment and relief options to get you back to all the activities you enjoy.

At-Home Conservative Treatments

If you are suffering from pain along the Achilles tendon or at the back of the heel then you likely have Achilles tendinitis. Here are treatment options that can be done in the comfort of your own home to alleviate the pain and swelling associated with the injury. 

Icing Your Achilles Tendon

Ice or cold therapy is a great way to provide pain relief without the use of medications or invasive treatments. The cold numbs the pain and reduces swelling. Put an ice pack on the painful area for 20-minute intervals throughout the day. Or use an ice cup, to rub the cold right onto the Achilles tendon. Avoid leaving the ice pack on while you sleep, this can cause serious damage to your skin.

Resting the Tendon

When you’re feeling the pain at the back of your heel or in the middle of your Achilles tendon it’s time to stop all the activities that are causing pain and rest. Resting gives your body time to heal and recuperate. When you start moving around again, don’t do any high impact exercises like running. Switch to low impact exercise to allow your body time in the transition of rest to physical activity.

Elevate Your Foot

Another home treatment for Achilles tendonitis is elevation. Elevating your foot after you’ve injured it will use gravity to reduce swelling. Put your foot on top of a pillow when you are on the couch or in bed, raising it above the level of your heart. This will encourage swelling to go down and reduce pain.

Stretches and Exercises

Routine stretching will help you regain range of motion in your ankle and foot, along with loosening the Achilles tendon to prevent re-injury. Strengthening exercises for Achilles tendonitis will strengthen your calf muscles and take the strain and stress off of your injured tendon. Before you begin exercising or stretching talk to your doctor or physical therapist.

Achilles Tendon Stretches

Achilles Tendon Exercises

Massage Ligaments

Massage therapy is used to relax tight calf muscles and release tension surrounding the Achilles tendon. Typically, you’ll want to avoid massage directly over the Achilles tendon. This can cause irritation and further injury. But by massaging the surrounding muscles you’ll release muscle knots and promote an overall sense of relaxation.

Achilles Tendon Massage

Taping the Ankle & Heel

Athletic tape and kinesiology tape are used in two different ways to support the Achilles tendon and surrounding structures. Athletic tape is placed on the ankle and calf, creating a brace-like formation. Kinesiology tape doesn’t restrict movement like athletic tape but works to support the body and relieve pain.

Learn More About Achilles Tendon Taping

Daily Support

There are specific shoes and orthotics that are designed to treat insertional Achilles tendonitis; where the shoe meets the heel is designed to be softer to prevent heel irritation. Heel lifts move the foot away from the back of the shoe; which prevents rubbing and stress on the Achilles tendon. Patients who have severe Achilles tendonitis may benefit from wearing a walking boot. But don’t wear the boot for too long, it can weaken the calf muscle over time.

Find the Right Insoles for Foot & Heel Pain

Nighttime Care

Consider the use of night splints or stretch socks while sleeping. A hard or soft night splint will hold your foot and ankle in a fixed, stretched, position that will keep your Achilles tendon loose at night. Similar to plantar fasciitis, this reduces the risk of injury when taking your first steps in the morning.

OTC Pain Relief

The pain of Achilles tendonitis can be treated with over-the-counter medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This includes medication like ibuprofen and naproxen. These drugs are generally considered safe for most people, are inexpensive, and are easily found. As always, before you start taking a new medication, reach out to your doctor or pharmacist to ensure that it is safe for you.

Medical Advice & Treatment

If you are experiencing any symptoms of Achilles tendonitis it’s important to get the medical advice. Proper treatment can decrease recovery time and avoid unnecessary complications. Anytime you hear a pop and have abrupt pain in the back of your heel there is a chance you have an Achilles tendon rupture. Don’t delay medical treatment and talk to your doctor as soon as possible.

Physical Therapy Sessions

A physical therapist will guide you through stretches and exercises. Their goal will be to shorten your recovery time, prevent re-injury, and reduce pain. If you need Achilles tendon surgery a physical therapist will help you develop a post-operative exercise routine that is designed for your specific needs.

Corticosteroid Injection

Corticosteroid injections use a powerful anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling and irritation. The medication is injected by a doctor directly into the painful area. While many people find relief with steroid injections, the relief might be only temporary. Talk to your doctor about how this treatment can help you and any of its limitations.

Surgery

Achilles tendon surgery is reserved for patients who don’t find relief within six months of treatment. The exact surgery that is used will depend upon multiple factors like the severity of tendon damage and the damage location. Rehabilitation after surgery can be extensive and take up to 12 months for a full recovery.

Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy

Extracorporeal shockwave therapy is a noninvasive procedure that uses shockwave impulses to decrease healing time. Though the results in this therapy have yet been proven, there is very little risk involved in it, making it a reasonable treatment choice before surgery is done.

Preventing Achilles Tendonitis

You may never be able to completely avoid Achilles tendonitis but you can decrease your chances by modifying your lifestyle and incorporating a few changes into your daily life. Here are our best prevention tips to get you started.

  • Warm-up before exercise
  • Use arch support and change out your shoes when worn
  • Avoid high-intensity exercises
  • Stretch tight calf muscles and your Achilles tendon to keep it flexible
  • Stop physical activity when you feel tendon pain

Avoid These Exercises to Help Prevent Injury

Smart Achilles Tendonitis Recovery

Achilles tendon injuries can cause pain and limit your mobility. Start off by treating this overuse injury at home with rest, ice, stretching, and exercise to name a few. If your pain is severe then medical treatment will be necessary. Achilles tendonitis can take quite a while to heal, so be patient, and don’t forget to reach out to your doctor or physical therapist for their professional advice.

Sources:

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/240819

https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/achilles-tendinitis/

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Patty Weasler, RN
Patty Weasler, RN

Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.



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