How to Fix Achilles Tendon Problems
The Achilles tendon is a strong tendon that connects the leg muscles with the foot. Athletes, gymnasts and runners are at high risk for problems with the Achilles tendon. But poorly conditioned athletes---especially those who play tennis, basketball and football---as well as dancers are at highest risk. Stretching and conditioning exercises are important in the prevention of Achilles' tendon injuries.
Difficulty: Moderately Easy
- Step 1
Notice your signs and symptoms. The symptoms of Achilles tendinitis usually emerge gradually and become more pronounced over time and with increased activity. These include tightness of the tendon, swelling of the tendon with warmth and pain on touch, pain when lifting up on your toes or pushing with your toes, painful heel on first walking and limited range of motion.
- Step 2
See your doctor or sports clinic. Initial diagnosis of Achilles tendinitis or tear is based on a physical exam and your clinical history. If your doctor suspects a tear or rupture, the diagnosis is sometimes confirmed by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). If you are 40 or older, ask for a cholesterol test, because high levels can increase your risk of injury.
- Step 3
Nonsurgical treatment for Achilles bursitis (inflammation) or tendinitis includes icing the tendon area, use of over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or aspirin and rest. Elevate your leg while resting and avoid overuse of the leg by walking or kicking. Casting the leg is controversial, and some orthopedists recommend surgical repair for their younger active patients.
- Step 4
Surgical repair of Achilles tendon injuries is rarely necessary. One method of surgical repair involves making an incision on the back of the ankle, removing damaged tissue and reattaching the ends of the tendon. In another surgical treatment for rupture, the two ends of the ruptured tendon are sutured together.
Tips & Warnings
- Perform stretching and strengthening before engaging in any sport activity. Stretch your Achilles tendons by facing a wall and putting the ball of your left foot against the wall with your heel on the floor. Lean forward, press your left hip toward the wall and stretch the whole foot for 10 seconds. Repeat with the right foot. Gradually increase the length and intensity of your training, avoiding sudden stresses on legs or ankles. Wear high-quality running or sports shoes; make sure they are a good fit. Take time to recover between athletic events; give your tissues time to repair and rebuild themselves before playing another game. Avoid or interrupt your sedentary lifestyle; don't wear shoes with heels. These tend to shorten and tighten your tendons, which makes them more prone to pain and injury with even mild movement.