Your Achilles tendon is a band of strong, fibrous tissue that connects your calf muscles to your heel bone. It’s the largest tendon in your body, and it runs from the back of your lower leg to your ankle.
You use your Achilles tendon every time you stand, walk, and run — and all that stress in everyday life makes it uniquely susceptible to injury. In fact, Achilles tendonitis is one of the most common tendon injuries in teens and adults of all ages.
Achilles tendon injuries cause pain in the back of your ankle, along with swelling and restricted joint mobility. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to protect your Achilles tendon from injury.
As a sports medicine specialist and avid athlete himself, Bryon Butts, DPM, helps patients care for their feet and ankles at Performance Footcare PC. Read on to get his expert advice on preventing Achilles tendon injury.
Build up workout intensity gradually
Overuse is the top cause of Achilles tendonitis. If you jump into a new type of exercise or amp up the intensity of your workout routine without giving your body time to adjust, it might respond with irritation, inflammation, and pain.
To protect your Achilles tendon (and the rest of your body) from injury, don’t increase the duration or intensity of your activities too fast. Focus on adding distance, time, or intensity gradually. Give your body time to adjust and build strength — and don’t forget the importance of rest days, too.
Stretch your calves regularly
Your Achilles tendon connects directly to the two primary muscles in your calf: the gastrocnemius and the soleus. If your calf muscles are tight, they pull on your Achilles tendon and increase stress on the tendon.
Make a habit of stretching every day to keep your body limber and reduce your risk of injury. Stretching is beneficial for everyone, and it’s especially important if you participate in athletics like running and cycling.
If you’re prone to Achilles tendon pain, pay special attention to stretching your calves. A few stretches Dr. Butts might recommend are downward dogs, lunges, and heel drops.
Never push through the pain
If you feel pain in your ankle or heel when you’re exercising, stop what you’re doing and rest. It can be tempting to push through the pain, but Achilles tendonitis is primarily an overuse injury and it only gets worse without proper care.
Achilles tendonitis affects the back of your lower leg and ankle, along with the top of your heel. The most common symptoms are:
- Pain after activity, particularly running or climbing stairs
- Difficulty bearing weight on the affected foot
- Thickening of your Achilles tendon
If any of these symptoms sound familiar, make an appointment with Dr. Butts. He specializes in diagnosing and treating Achilles tendon injuries, and he’s here to help you find healing.
Dr. Butts typically recommends a period of rest or low-impact activity. As you begin healing, he prescribes physical therapy and/or stretches and strengthening exercises to do at home.
Other treatment options include extracorporeal shockwave therapy and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections. Rarely, surgery might be necessary to repair a severely damaged Achilles tendon.
Whether you’re trying to prevent an injury or recover from one, Dr. Butts and our podiatric team are ready to help. Request an appointment online or call our offices in Lake Success or New York, New York, to talk to a team member.