Unlike most body parts, like the shoulders and arms, you really can’t stop using your feet for any length of time. (Unless you’re in one of those zippy power chairs!)
This means that even if taking the stress off your feet for a day or two would give them time to heal, it just isn’t feasible.
What happens instead is something like this: the pain in your foot or ankle bothers you every time you put weight on that leg, so you start to favor the leg and limp when you walk.
After several weeks or months, you find that you’re still trying not to put weight on your painful foot, and now your limp is very noticeable. And worst of all, your pain hasn’t gone away!
This pattern describes most people with pain in their Achilles tendons.
How to Stop Stubborn Achilles Pain
Located along the back of your lower calf, the Achilles tendon is actually a combination of 2 large calf muscles and it attaches them to the back of the heel.
Pain in this tendon is fairly easy to diagnose, since the tendon becomes very painful to the touch.
When left untreated, the pain worsens with extended walking, trying to rise up onto your toes, attempts to jog/run and any attempts to jump.
Like I explained above, it’s pretty easy to understand why this pain won’t go away on its own, since the tendon and muscles are in constant use any time you’re standing and walking.
So what do you do with this stubborn pain?
Below are 4 tips that will help you turn the tables and start to ease your Achilles pain:
4 Tips to Eliminate Achilles Pain
1). Frequent Calf Stretches: as mentioned above, your 2 large calf muscles combine towards the bottom of your leg to create the Achilles tendon. When you stretch these muscles, you can take tension off the tendon and also help remodel any scar tissue that has built up. There are several ways to stretch the calf muscles, but my favorite version is to hang the heels off the back of a step. If you keep your knees straight, you should feel a nice pulling sensation higher up the calf, near the back of the knee. Hold a comfortable stretch for 30-60 seconds and repeat 2-3 times. This routine can be performed as many as 5-6 times/day, as long as the stretches are free of pain.
2). Proper Footwear: wearing a supportive tennis shoe with good arch support can also take tension off the Achilles tendon. Having a shoe with a good cushion can also help absorb some of the shock as you walk. For some people with severe Achilles pain, using a heel lift is also a nice short-term solution for taking the constant stress off the tendon.
3). Avoid Overuse. No one wants to hear this, but if you consistently have pain in your Achilles tendon with certain activities, like when you go hiking, you might want to avoid these painful activities until your Achilles can calm down.
Keep the “3 Phases of Healing” in mind: you want to eliminate your pain and inflammation quickly (Phase 1), and then you can increase your activity level (Phases 2 & 3). Working through the pain will rarely help you in this situation.
4). Friction Massage: if you’ve had pain and irritation in your Achilles for an extended period, it’s likely that you now have some scar tissue built up in the tendon. This is also pretty easy to diagnose because the tendon will start to appear thicker, and it will also look less defined than the other pain-free tendon. One of the best ways to reduce this scar tissue and to encourage blood flow to the tendon is by using friction massage.
There are a few ways to do this at home, which include massage balls and hard plastic roller devices (they look like rolling pins). If doing self-massage doesn’t work, we also use other types of hard massage tools in the clinic that work really well!
Achilles pain, whether it’s “Achilles tendonitis” or “Achilles tendinosis” doesn’t have to slow you down!
I hope these tips help you reduce your pain and get back to your active lifestyle!
And here’s one more bonus tip for you to consider, especially if you’ve been struggling with pain in your Achilles tendon and can’t seem to get over the hump:
Bonus Tip: Get Some Help! If you’re lucky, doing stretches and avoiding painful activities for a period of time will help you get on top of your Achilles pain. But this type of pain can be stubborn at times… So if it lingers, don’t hesitate to seek some professional help.
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