Achilles Tendon Problems (cont.)
Most Achilles tendon injuries occur during sports and can be prevented. If you had an Achilles tendon problem in the past, it is especially important to try to prevent another injury by:
- Warming up and stretching. Before any sport or intense activity, gradually warm up your body by doing 5 to 10 minutes of walking or biking and then do stretching exercises. Calf and plantar fascia stretches will stretch the Achilles tendon area. More general stretches target other muscles, such as the hamstrings and groin.
- Cooling down and doing more stretching. After intense activity, gradually cool down with about 5 minutes of easy jogging, walking, or biking, and 5 minutes of stretches.
- Avoiding any sport or intense activity that you are not in condition to do.
- Wearing shoes that cushion your heel during sports or any strenuous activity.
- Wearing heel pads or other orthotics that are designed to reduce stress on the Achilles tendon.
Home treatment is often used for Achilles tendinopathy and in physical therapy or rehabilitation after an Achilles tendon rupture.
If you have Achilles tendinopathy, follow these steps to rest, heal, and strengthen your Achilles tendon and prevent further injury:
- Rest your Achilles tendon. Avoid all activities that strain the tendon, such as stair climbing or running. While allowing your tendon the days, weeks, or months it needs to heal, try other activities, such as swimming. Your doctor will give you information on what you can and cannot do.
- Reduce pain by icing your Achilles tendon and taking nonprescription pain relievers such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as directed. An example of acetaminophen is Tylenol. NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and aspirin. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20 because of the risk of Reye syndrome.
- Follow your physical therapy program if one has been prescribed for you, and do gentle stretching and strengthening exercises, especially focusing on calf stretches.
- Do not smoke or use other tobacco products. Smoking slows healing, because it decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair.
- Wear footwear that protects the tendon while it is healing.
- Quality athletic shoes that support your arches and cushion your heels can make a big difference in your daily comfort and the healing process. If needed, talk to your physical therapist or podiatrist about heel pads or orthotics.
- A bandage that keeps your foot flexed can restrict the motion of the Achilles tendon.
- A silicone sleeve or pad can distribute pressure on the Achilles tendon.
Your doctor may suggest you wear a night brace to keep your foot flexed, if your Achilles tendon shortens and stiffens while you sleep.
Achilles tendon rupture
Whether you treat an Achilles tendon rupture with surgery or use a cast, splint, brace, walking boot, or other device to keep your lower leg from moving (immobilizing your leg), after treatment it's important to follow the rehabilitation program prescribed by your doctor and physical therapist. This program helps your tendon heal and prevents further injury.