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Treating Achilles Tendon Injuries

Treatment depends upon the injury: the treatment for Achilles tendonitis, tendinosis and tenosynovitis is significantly different from the treatment for a partial or full Achilles tendon rupture.

All Achilles Tendon Injuries

Prior to starting any treatment check with a physician to be sure that the injury is correctly diagnosed and that the treatment is appropriate:

1. Review injury prevention to understand the steps that might have prevented the injury and learn how to use the pinch test and other metrics to monitor injury severity. Incorporate these concepts into your recovery and post recovery habits to speed your recovery and prevent a reoccurrence of the injury. Preventing Injuries.

2. Review injuries and consult a specialist to be sure that you know which Achilles tendon injury you have and that the treatment you select is appropriate for your injury. Review Injuries.

3. Review footwear. It is almost always beneficial to immediately replace the sport shoes you were wearing when you became injured. The same may be true for some of your other sports shoes and shoes as well. For a grade 1 injury try new sports shoes and temporarily adding a 1/4" - 5/8" (7-15 mm) heal lift to sports shoes and shoes. For a grade 2 injury consider an orthotic. For an understanding of injury grades see: injuries, for an understanding of footwear review footwear.

Achilles Tendinosis, Achilles Tendonitis, Achilles Tenosynovitis, and Tennis Leg

Treatment for each includes five simultaneous steps. In cases of tendonitis an anti-inflammatory may also be used.

1. Relative rest. Stop doing the activity that caused the injury for between a week and a few months, depending upon the degree of degeneration. Relative rest should last at least 1 week for a grade 1 or 2 injury, at least 3 weeks for a grade 3 injury, and at least 1 month for a grade 4 injury. For an understanding of injury grades see: injuries. During the relative rest period also stop performing activities and sports that are similar to the one that caused the injury, i.e. soccer is similar to running, handball is similar to tennis, etc.
Achilles tendinosis is not an excuse to get out of shape: relative rest is the treatment, not total rest. During the relative rest period do alternate sports that are easy on the Achilles tendon, such as swimming, moderate cycling, upper body weight lifting, etc.
After the relative rest period, resume gradually. For example, if you are a runner with a grade 3 injury resume with jogging until you are sure that you are down to at least a level 2 injury, then resume running moderate distance with no speed work or hills until you are down to at least a grade 1 injury, then resume running at the same intensity as prior to the injury.

2. Stretch the calf muscles for 20 or more minutes per day. If the other leg muscles, the hip muscles, and the back muscles are tight, they may be causing tightness of the calf muscles, so stretch these other muscles as well. In addition to standard stretching, muscles can also be stretched by strengthening their opposing muscle group. For example, strengthening the anterior tibialis, the small muscle group on the front of the lower leg, stretches the calf muscles. As part of stretching, consider massage.

3. Eccentric strengthening of the leg muscles, particularly the calf muscles. Do daily or every other day calf raises on a stair or using a calf raise machine in a gym. Start slowly using just your body weight doing three sets of 10 or 15. When this can be done without pain, gradually increase the speed, number of repetitions per set, amount of weight, and number of sets.
Concentrate on the eccentric rather than the concentric portion of the exercise (the calf lowering rather than the calf raising portion of calf raises). On each repitition, be sure to go all the way down for a full stretch of the Achilles tendon. Do the calf raises after, rather than before, any other exercises that you are doing.

4. Physical therapy. Therapies applied by professional physical therapists to repair tendon degeneration include: ultra sound, electric stimulation, and laser photostimulation.

5. Ice therapy. Apply ice to reduce the degeneration. Ice should not be applied directly to the skin, use an ice pack instead. Apply the ice pack to the Achilles tendons after exercise or physical therapy. Apply as often and as for as long as possible.

Avoid anti-inflammatory and pain killing drugs. The anti-inflammatory drugs will not help because Achilles tendinosis is a degenerative injury rather than an inflammation (see injuries). The pain killing drugs will mask the problem, which is likely to cause the degeneration to get worse. In addition to being ineffective, anti-inflammatory and pain killing drugs are also expensive.

In the very worst cases of Achilles tendinosis, surgery may be required, but only as a very last resort. Consider surgery if all the above steps have been taken completely and repeatedly, and the Achilles tendinosis has not improved for at least six months.

The surgery itself involves cutting away the areas of degeneration. The most common approach is to remove the outer area or sheath of the tendon and then cut out the degenerative areas. More recently an outpatient method using local anesthesia has been developed.

The scalpel is inserted into the degenerative area of the tendon and then, while the scalpel is inserted, the patient flexes and extends the foot. The process is then repeated just above, below, to the left, and to the right of the original insertion. Again, fully explore every other option before considering surgery.

Achilles Tendon Rupture (Achilles Tendon Tear)

A partial or complete Achilles tendon rupture requires immediate immobilization, or in the very worst cases, immediate surgery to reconnect the tendon. Note that this treatment is the complete opposite of the treatment for Achilles tendinosis.

Strengthening, stretching, and relative rest followed by gradual increases in exercise will help Achilles tendinosis, but would be detrimental to an Achilles tendon rupture. Activity causes Achilles tendon ruptures to get worse, making them more likely to require surgery.

Achilles Tendon Laceration and Crushing

Achilles tendon laceration injuries vary dramatically in both their severity and the amount of damage done to other parts of the foot and leg. The same is true for crushing type Achilles tendon injuries. A physician should be consulted.

The above information was provided courtesy of www.AchillesTendon.com

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