Known for being the strongest tendon in the body, the achilles tendon, is still at risk for breaking down with overuse. This injury accounts for 6% of running injuries according to Taunton et al. Luckily it can be a very preventable running injury if you train correctly. 75% of running related achilles tendonopathies are due to poor training or mechanics.
What is Tendonopathy? Pain that occurs in the back of the heel. It hurts with the first few steps in the morning, but improves with activity. Pain, however, usually returns at end of run or activity. What most people don’t realize is that there are different stages of the tendinopathy (tendonitis and tendinosis) and treatment dramatically changes depending on the stage of the problem.
Tendonitis is inflammation that occurs right after an injury. The signs of inflammation are swelling, warmth and redness. In this phase the Achilles tendon is best treated with the anti-inflammatory protocol – RICE – rest, ice, elevation and other modalities to control inflammation. NSAIDs may be useful but consult your doctor prior to initiating .
Tendonosis is a chronic degenerative condition that occurs after the tendon fails to heal. The first step to healing is to unload the tendon from its stress by relative rest. Such as running and walking less. Performing eccentric calf strengthening has been shown to be effective. Work up to 3 sets of 15 reps per day for 12 weeks to improve the degenerative tissues of the tendon.
Other essential components of treating both tendonosis and tendonitis is to stretch the calf musculature, strenthen the core and hips and address any mechanical issues that might be affecting your running gait.
Stay tuned for more exercises to prevent and address running injuries.