Achilles Tendinitis Prevention
Learn the causes behind Achilles Tendinitis, plus crucial prevention strategies.
by Brad Walker | First Published May 14, 2004 | Updated April 20, 2017
Every week I get asked for information on Achilles Tendinitis. So instead of constantly referring people to other sites, I thought it was time to write an article on Achilles Tendinitis myself.
Achilles injuries are commonly associated with sports that require a lot of running, jumping and change of direction. Excessive twisting or turning of the ankle and foot can result in inflammation, strain or a rupture. Sports with the highest occurrence of Achilles injury include running, walking, cycling, football, basketball and tennis.
If you suffer from Achilles tendinitis or are seeking to prevent its occurrence it is important to follow the information in this article. In addition, adding a few simple stretches to your fitness program will also help. To get started on a safe and effective stretching routine that’s just right for you, check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility.
What is an Achilles tendon Injury?
As you can see from the diagram to the right, the Achilles tendon is located at the rear (posterior) of the bottom half of the lower leg. In the diagram it is represented by the thick band of connective fibre that runs from bottom of the Gastrocnemius muscle to the heel bone.
The Achilles tendon is used to plantar flex the foot, or point the foot downward. This allows a person the run, jump and stand on one’s toes.
The Achilles tendon is the strongest tendon of the body, and able to withstand a 1000 pound force without tearing. Despite this, the Achilles ruptures more frequently than any other tendon because of the tremendous pressures placed on it during competitive sports.
There are two main types of injuries that affect the Achilles tendon; Achilles Tendinitis and Achilles Tendon Rupture.
Achilles Tendinitis is simply an inflammation of the tendon, and in most cases is caused by excessive training over an extended period of time.
Achilles Tendon Rupture, on the other hand, is a tear (or complete snapping) of the tendon, and usually occurs as the result of a sudden or unexpected force. In the case of a complete rupture, the only treatment available is to place the lower leg in a plaster cast for 6 to 8 weeks, or surgery. As both of these treatments are beyond the scope of this article, we’ll be focusing the rest of this article on Achilles Tendinitis.
Causes and Risk Factors
There are a number of causes and risk factors associated with Achilles Tendinitis. One of the most common causes is simply a lack of conditioning. If the tendon, and muscles that connect to the tendon, have not been trained or conditioned, this can lead to a weakness that may result in an Achilles injury.
Overtraining is also associated with Achilles Tendinitis. Doing too much, too soon places excessive strain on the Achilles tendon and doesn’t allow the tendon enough time to recovery properly. Over time small tears and general degeneration result in a weakening of the tendon, which leads to inflammation and pain.
Other causes of Achilles injury include a lack of warming up and stretching. Wearing inadequate footwear, running or training on uneven ground, and simply standing on, or in something you’re not meant to. Biomechanical problems such as high arched feet or flat feet can also lead to Achilles injuries.
Preventing Achilles Tendinitis
So what are some of the things you can do to help prevent Achilles Tendinitis?
- Warm Up properly: A good warm up is essential in getting the body ready for any activity. A well structured warm up will prepare your heart, lungs, muscles, joints and your mind for strenuous activity.
- Stretch and Strengthen: I’ll cover these in a lot more detail a little later on when I discuss rehabilitation and conditioning exercises.
- Balancing Exercises: Any activity that challenges your ability to balance, and keep your balance, will help what’s called proprioception: – your body’s ability to know where its limbs are at any given time.
- Plyometric Training: Plyometric drills include jumping, skipping, bounding, and hopping type activities. These explosive types of exercises help to condition and prepare the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the lower leg and ankle joint.
- Footwear: Be aware of the importance of good footwear. A good pair of shoes will help to keep your ankles stable, provide adequate cushioning, and support your foot and lower leg during the running or walking motion.
- Cool Down properly: Just as important as warming up, a proper cool down will not only help speed recovery, but gives your body time to make the transition from exercise to rest.
- Rest: As most cases of Achilles tendinitis are caused by overuse, rest is probably the single biggest factor in preventing Achilles injury. Avoid over training; get plenty of rest; and prevent Achilles tendinitis.
In part 2, I’ll be outlining a comprehensive initial and ongoing treatment program to make recovery from Achilles Tendinitis as quick as possible. Click here to continue reading part 2.
About the Author: Brad is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 100's of testimonials. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.