Protecting Your Achilles Tendon From Injury

A strained achilles tendon

The Achilles tendon is the strongest and one of the longest tendons in the body. It is also one of the most commonly injured, affecting runners, gymnasts, dancers and other athletes. This time of year, athletes who are still performing outdoors in colder temperatures are at greater risk of injury as the tendon is not as flexible in the cold. Unfortunately, if injury occurs the Achilles tendon is difficult to heal; and if not healed properly it can plague you for years. Prevention is the key to maintaining a healthy Achilles tendon

Many people who suffer from a painful Achilles tendon have Achilles tendonitis. This occurs when the Achilles tendon, which stretches from the heel bone to the calf muscle, becomes swollen and inflamed.

For some who suffer from Achilles tendonitis, scar tissue begins to build or the fibers develop microscopic tears, a condition known as Achilles tendonosis. As the collagen fibers of the tendon weaken, the risk for a complete Achilles rupture or tear increases. Therefore, it is essential that you treat Achilles tendon pain at the early onset to avoid greater damage and a lengthy path of healing.

If you are suffering from new or ongoing Achilles tendon pain or you have pain that remains from a previous injury, now is the time to treat it.

What happens when the Achilles tendon is injured?

Inflammation of the Achilles tendon is caused by tearing the fibers in a tight tendon or by the excessive pronation (flattening more than normal) of the foot arch. With repetitive over pronation the plantar fascia becomes stretched causing inflammation at the heel and a greater pull on the Achilles tendon. As the tendon is pulled, the inflammation becomes worse and tendonitis or tears occur.

What causes Achilles Tendon Injuries?

There are several contributing factors to Achilles tendon injuries. Often the injuries are a result of not warming up tight muscles and tendons before activities such as basketball, tennis or raquetball which involve start-and-stop footwork or excessive jumping. As well, increasing the intensity of training too quickly, uphill running or climbing stairs can cause tears in the tendon. Wearing unsupportive or improper footwear can also cause strain and damage.

The good news is that all of these causes are preventable. Like most soft tissue, taking care of your Achilles tendon and preparing it for activity will significantly reduce your risk of a painful, drawn out injury.

How Can I Prevent It?

Maintaining a healthy body, preparing your Achilles tendon for activity and making wise exercise choices is the best way to avoid tendonitis and tears in your Achilles.

Maintain a Healthy Body

By keeping your body healthy you protect your Achilles tendon two ways. First, exercising, eating a balance diet, drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep will help you to maintain a healthy weight. When your feet are not burdened with excess weight to carry, there is less chance of over pronation which causes damage to the Achilles tendon.

Second, a stronger, healthier body is able to perform better during activity, minimizing the chance of an unfortunate tear. Strong leg muscles act as shock absorbers for your Achilles tendon and help to keep the body aligned, preventing improper twisting. By performing a variety of leg exercises (i.e. lunges, squats, leg presses, inner and outer thigh band pulls, leg raises, leg extensions, and leg curls) you will strengthen the muscles necessary for proper support.

If you have any difficulties with your feet or legs, be sure to see a pharmacist or doctor for treatment. When you suffer from foot or leg problems, even something like a bunion, it can disrupt your natural stride and put strain on certain muscles and tendons including the Achilles. If you are planning to begin a new exercise program, be sure to consult your doctor and ease into it slowly.

Prepare Your Achilles Tendon for Activity

Inside the workings of an Inferno Wrap™

As our bodies age, we become less flexible. Warming muscles before activity becomes vital to preventing any injuries.

When the calf muscles and the Achilles tendons are warm they are more flexible and less prone to strains and tears. Prior to exercising, warm up with light aerobic activity such as walking, using a stationary bike or marching on the spot for 5-10 minutes.

Another method used by athletes to warm soft tissue is an Inferno Wrap™ treatment for Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™.

Heating the Achilles tendon by stimulating the flow of blood to the area effectively warms the fibers deeply, preparing the tendon for use with less injury.

After exercising, lightly stretch your calf muscles and Achilles tendons to the point where you feel a slight pull but not pain.

Make Wise Exercise Choices

Before you begin exercising ensure you have the proper supportive footwear for your activity (This is also important for your everyday footwear). Avoid exercises that put excess strain on your heel ligaments and tendons such as excessive running up hills and stairs and jumping activities. It is also recommended that when doing aerobic and strengthening exercises on the same day, to do the aerobic exercises first. Strengthening exercises exhaust muscles and limit their ability to protect the body from injury during aerobic exercise

Although you may experience some muscle soreness from exercising, it is not normal to experience soreness in a tendon. If you experience pain or tightness in your Achilles tendon while exercising, stop immediately and treat with ice and rest. If the pain continues, Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™ with an Inferno Wrap™ for your ankle can help to soothe the pain and heal your tendon.

When Can I Be Active Again?

If you have Achilles Tendonitis or a tear, it is important to treat it immediately to prevent future pain and disability. Even a mild strain can turn into a rupture leading to permanent damage.

Covering from a achilles tendon injury

MendMeShop's Platinum Ankle/Achilles Therapy Combo has been developed to provide you with all the tools you need to treat your injury. If your tendon is inflamed, swollen and painful, treat it with cold compression and rest your ankle until the inflammation subsides.

Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™ with an Inferno Wrap™ for your ankle should accelerate your recovery, enhance the elasticity of your soft tissue and help minimize the growth of scar tissue.

As you heal try a different activity, such as swimming, that will not aggravate the Achilles tendon. Remember, during the healing stage of your injury, it is important that you are patient and allow the tendon to heal completely so as to avoid serious problems in the future. Be sure you feel no pain in your ankle when you walk, run or jump before returning to more strenuous activities. A strong tendon that allows your foot to move freely means you can be active again with less concern of re-injury and more time laid up.

Once you are able to return to your normal activity level, you can use your healing tools to reduce the chance of future injury as well. As mentioned earlier, many athletes treat their previously injured tissue with a round of Inferno Wrap™ to heat the area, making the Achilles tendon more flexible and preparing it for rigorous activity.

By following these preventative measures, you will increase your chances of having a healthy Achilles tendon that is injury free for the cooler season. If you have suffered from an injury, be sure to treat it quickly and heal it completely to prevent re-injury and more severe problems in the future.

Browse the MendMeShop products that professional athletes use to heal themselves quickly and completely. You too can have them to use in the comfort of your own home for the ultimate healing experience.

Stretches for runners, leg stretches, calf stretch and Achilles tendon stretch.

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