A Runner's Worst Nightmare: How To Treat Your Achilles Tendon Injury And, Hopefully, Prevent It From Reoccurring

If you're among the 55.9 million runners in the United States, you love a quick jog to start your day or the adrenaline-filled excitement of an approaching marathon unless, of course, you're plagued by injury. One injury, in particular, an Achilles tendon pull or tear, is one of the most feared among avid runners, as it doesn't just only interfere with your ability to run, but it affects nearly everything else you do in life, too. It can also be reoccurring, cutting into your ability to run or walk and leaving you in a world of pain.

The Unfortunate Circumstances That Lead To Achilles Tendon Injuries

Any area of the body subject to continuous use, even without strain, may be more prone to injury than others. Computer workers' wrists, for example, can easily become tender and injury-prone due to the repeated stress, and the same applies to your ankles. Beyond the repetitive stress on your ankles from running, any stretch can put the Achilles tendon at risk, such as reaching up to the top shelf in a grocery aisle or getting something out of your kitchen cabinets.

How You Can Treat Your Ankle At Home

While rest is often the most recommended treatment for ankle pain and injury, it's not always possible, nor does it always do enough to heal the affected area. If your ankle is giving you minor trouble, take extra steps to give it the TLC that will lead to healing:

  • Elevate your ankle, such as when you're sitting down and working, watching television, or otherwise able to put your foot up.
  • Apply ice after running or after a long day at the office.
  • Try over-the-counter anti-inflammatory and pain medications.
  • Engage in helpful stretches to strengthen the area and keep it ready for running.

Since you know your body best, it's crucial that you pay attention to any pain you're feeling rather than fight through it the way many athletes do. 

When To Hobble To The Doctors

If you're experiencing intense or prolonged pain, a trip to the ER may be in order, as the Achilles tendon may have ruptured. Even a constant throb may be a warning; thus, communication with your doctor is essential to healing or preventing major injury. They may request an X-ray to eliminate the possibility of other issues, such as spurs or fractures, or you might be subject to an MRI or ultrasound. One way or another, though, a medical team will discover the severity of the injury and follow up with the appropriate treatment.

More Intensive Treatment A Specialist May Recommend 

If you've ruptured the tendon, you'll likely require surgery or a walking cast, possibly with a pair of dreaded crutches. Sometimes a rupture can heal with immobilization, but other times, the scalpel is needed, especially for severe tears and breaks. Otherwise, your doctor will send you to a physical therapist right away to work the area back into a healthy condition. Eccentric stretching, which involves weights and calculated muscle extension, is likely to be part of your rehabilitation program.

Additionally, you may be a good candidate for a specialized orthotic device that fits into your shoe and is designed to reduce the workload on the sensitive components of your ankle. 

Preventing Achilles Tendon Injuries In The First Place

Especially as a jogging enthusiast, it's hard to prevent harm to your body, but you can minimize the likelihood of injury by taking extra care when warming up, wearing the best running shoes possible, avoiding uneven surfaces, and following any advice your physician and physical therapist bestow. The most appropriate words of wisdom may be the most difficult for you to follow: "Take it easy."

Running is an excellent means of keeping in shape, managing stress, and meeting other healthy goals; however, that pain in your ankle can shut your aspirations down quickly, sometimes for good. Never ignore pain or even discomfort in your Achilles Tendon and address potential issues with it faster than you can cover a quarter-mile. While running may be one of the most important activities in your life, it's important to slow down and nurse this delicate area so that you're able to resume your normal running schedule.

For more information, contact a clinic like the Carolina Foot &  Ankle Specialists.