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Achilles Tendinitis Treatments You Can Use at Home

By Sarah Turner | December 21, 2017 Foot Pain
Achilles Tendinitis Treatments You Can Use at Home

Your feet take you from place to place, allow you to enjoy sports and let you explore the world. They also take a beating by walking an average of 110,000 miles in one lifetime. Composed of 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 tendons, ligaments and muscles , your feet and ankles are a complex system that works together allowing you to walk, run, jump and bike. And the most important tendon in this system is your Achilles.

The Achilles tendon is incredibly strong. In fact, it’s the largest and strongest tendon in your body. The Achilles tendon connects your calf muscle to your heel bone and is the primary tendon in both running and walking. Injury or inflammation caused by repetitive use to this tendon is called Achilles tendinitis, which is common in both athletes and non-athletes, and can appear suddenly or be a result of degradation over time.

Learn more about Achilles tendinitis (or “tendinopathy”, “tendinosis”, “tendonitis”) and find at-home methods of pain relief below!

Types of Achilles Tendinitis

There are two types of Achilles tendinitis: noninsertional and insertional.

Noninsertional tendinitis affects the middle portion of the tendon, when the fibers have tiny tears, causing the ligament to swell and thicken. It normally affects younger, more active people.

Insertional tendinitis affects the lower portion of the heel, where the Achilles attaches to the heel bone—bone spurs often form with this type of Achilles tendinitis. It can affect anyone, even if you’re not active. In both types of Achilles tendinitis, calcification (hardening) of the damaged tendon fibers can happen.

Causes of Achilles Tendinitis

Achilles tendinitis causes aren’t very well understood. While it’s commonly an overuse injury, Achilles tendinitis can also be caused by an acute, or sudden injury. Experts think there may be a link between the occurrence of Achilles tendinitis and the increase in intense running and jumping activities by everyday people.

It can also arise if you’re doing repetitive exercises that overload the Achilles tendon and its surrounding tissue, if you have posture issues like a flat or high-arched foot, or if you spend a lot of time training or running on uneven or slanted surfaces.

Symptoms of Achilles Tendinitis

In most cases, Achilles tendinitis occurs slowly over time. Common symptoms of chronic Achilles tendinitis include:

      • Heel pain
      • Pain on the back of your foot or ankle
      • Worsening pain when you flex your feet
      • Swelling or stiffness around your ankle

      In extreme cases, the Achilles can suddenly tear or rupture from an injury—which can make an audible pop or snapping noise. If this happens, the symptoms are typically the same as above, though much more intense. If you believe you’ve experienced an injury to your Achilles tendon, you should see a healthcare professional before using the following treatments.

      What You Can Do

      Achilles tendinitis is no fun, no matter the cause. But finding pain relief is possible, even at home. Here are three Achilles tendinitis treatments you can try:

      RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation

      As with most injuries, a first step is to start with the RICE method. That means you should rest the injured area, ice it, use some sort of compression and keep it elevated above the level of your heart. Obviously this isn’t possible all day every day, but it is something that can help you find relief and get back to doing what you love.

      Rest

      Resting your Achilles is crucial for recovery. If you don’t ever give it time to heal, you’ll be in pain every step of every day. Stay off your feet as much as you can, and use the rest of the RICE method to help you find relief while you let your Achilles heal (no pun intended).

      Ice

      Cold therapy is vital to Achilles tendinitis treatment because it keeps swelling down, allowing for faster recovery time. Traditional ice is easily accessible, but it’s also pretty messy. Try these options to avoid the mess wile still getting the benefits of cold therapy:

      TheraPearl Ankle.jpg

      Reusable ankle cold packs

      Packs, like the TheraPearl Ankle/Wrist Wrap, are designed to wrap all the way around your ankle, providing targeted relief. The pliable gel pearls remain flexible even when frozen and the adjustable strap keeps it in place, even if you have to get up while you ice. Keep the cold pack on for about 20 minutes at a time. This can be done every two or three hours depending on the severity of your injury and your schedule.

      Topical analgesics

      Topical pain relievers, like Biofreeze® Pain Reliever, allow you to relieve pain and keep moving. Biofreeze has all of the benefits of icing without slowing you down. You just need to apply it, keep it open to the air and go one with your life. Biofreeze should never be combined with a compression wrap, though, or you could irritate your skin. And it should only be used up to four times per day.

      Use Compression

      Using compression therapy, like an elastic bandage, is thought to help reduce swelling. It’s recommended to use compression as part of the RICE method, but you should also consult with a healthcare professional about what will work in your specific case of achilles tendinitis.

      Elevate

      Keeping your foot elevated on a stack of pillows or the arm of your couch (if you’re laying down) is one way to help your injury heal. Combined with your favorite method of cold therapy, this helps you rest your Achilles and can help with swelling.

      Apply Kinesiology Tape

      Kinesiology tape helps the Achilles tendon without affecting your range of motion. If you aren’t familiar with kinesiology tape, it’s a stretchy, cotton fiber tape that’s latex free and can be applied to the body to help provide pain relief and support.

      Kinesiology tape is very commonly used among professional athletes. You’ve probably seen your favorite athlete wearing kinesiology tape at some point, but it’s also available to you and incredibly easy to use. Check out how to apply kinesiology tape for Achilles tendinitis using the image and video below.


      There are several brands of kinesiology tape, but TheraBand® Kinesiology Tape™ is the only brand that has a hexagonal pattern right on the tape to help you apply the tape accurately, even as a non-professional. The XactStretch™ Indicators specify how far you need to pull to reach a 25 or 50 percent stretch, as specified by your healthcare provider’s instructions.

      Try Strengthening Exercises

      If you’re feeling ready for exercise and want to gain back some strength and mobility, this list is a great place to start.

      You can do these exercises on your own using a TheraBand® CLX™ resistance band—the only resistance band with connected loops for more versatile use and easy anchoring. These bands don’t need to be wrapped or tied off, just loop your foot through for each of these exercises. They are easy to use and portable, so these exercises can be done anywhere. Do 3 sets of 10, for a total of 30 repetitions for each exercise.

      Ankle Eversion

      1. Place the ball of one foot in the CLX loop and pull it towards the inside of your foot and anchor the band to a stable, heavy object.
      2. Then in small motions of the ankle, pull away from the CLX resistance band by moving your foot outward (away from your body). Don't let your knee or lower leg rotate.
      3. Repeat with each foot.

      Ankle-Eversion.gif

      Ankle Inversion

      This motion is the opposite of an eversion.

      1. Place the ball of one foot in the CLX loop and anchor the band to a stable, heavy object.
      2. Pull it towards the outside of your foot.
      3. Then in small motions of the ankle, pull away from the resistance band by moving your foot inward (toward your opposite foot). Don’t let your knee or lower leg rotate.
      4. Repeat with each foot.

      Ankle-Inversion.gif

      Ankle Dorsiflexion

      1. Loop your CLX resistance band around your foot.
      2. Step on the band with your opposite foot, while sitting on an exercise ball.
      3. In small movements with your ankle, move your foot directly upward, towards your body.

      Ankle-Dorsiflexion.gif

      All of these exercises and treatments are techniques that may be used as little or as often as you need. They are great options for relieving Achilles tendinitis pain and resources to help you keep moving. However, if you’re continuously struggling with Achilles tendinitis pain, be sure to seek out a healthcare professional so you can get back to being active as soon as possible.

      You can find specialized healthcare professionals, like physical therapists, in your area using the Professional Finder. Simply select which body part(s) are causing you pain and which types of healthcare professionals you'd like to see, and you'll get a list near your zip code.

      Preventing Achilles Tendinitis

      While it’s hard to completely prevent achilles tendinitis, there are a few ways you can do to reduce your risks of developing it. The key? Remembering that your muscles and soft tissues (including the small ones surrounding your ankles) require a bit of moderation. Try these tips for prevention from the Cleveland Clinic:

          • Be sure to warm up before exercise—there’s less chance of injury to your Achilles tendon if you make sure that all of your muscles are ready for activity beforehand.
          • Wear the right shoes—a healthcare professional like a physical therapist can help with this. You want to make sure that your feet are getting the right mix of arch support and mobility while being active.
          • Vary your exercise—since Achilles tendinitis is often caused by overuse and repetition, making sure that you’re not stressing the same muscles and tendons every day can help keep achilles tendinitis at bay.
          • Increase activity slowly—by giving your body time to adjust to a new exercise regimen, you reduce the risk of injury.
          • Stay active all year—while it’s sometimes hard to find the time to stay active, being consistently active can help prevent injuries to the Achilles tendon. That consistency allows your body to get used to activity, which means that it can better adapt to new movements and exercises.
          • Find a good healthcare professional—when it comes down to it, the professionals know the most current health information, which means they’ll be able to help you make the best choices for your body and your health. Having a professional on your side is valuable, not just for preventing Achilles tendinitis, but for your overall health.

          Achilles tendinitis can be a frustrating and painful condition. You may have to try a few pain relief solutions before you find what works, but don’t let that discourage you. Having a mix of options at your fingertips can make the process a little easier. And a healthcare professional is a great resource, whether that’s for finding pain relief, new exercises or just having a sounding board for your particular experience. You can find specialized healthcare professionals, like physical therapists, in your area using the Professional Finder. Simply select which body part(s) are causing you pain and which types of healthcare professionals you'd like to see, and you'll get a list near your zip code.

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