Achilles Tendonitis - Prevention

With he approach of spring, we may turn our attention to the outdoors and its many activities.  It can be a mistake to do too much too soon without the requisite preparation otherwise injuries can easily happen.  It is not without reason that the Achilles heel has a place in Greek mythology emphasizing a serious weakness despite its overall strength.

The achilles tendon connects the back of the lower leg to the heel.  Although it is the strongest tendon in the body and can withhold a 1000 pound force, it can become inflamed by activities such as running and jumping as well as sports that require constant change of direction such as basketball, tennis and squash.  Conditioning of the muscles leading to the tendon is therefore important in preventing injury.

Overtraining can result in tendonitis, so beware if you have a tendency toward being a weekend warrior.  The tendon can become unnecessarily stressed resulting in micro-tears, which can gradually lead to weakness, inflammation and pain.
There are certain exercises that can help prevent the development of an achilles tendonitis.

A gentle warm-up prepares the body for exercise.  A light jogging or jumping on the spot along with arm rotations can be effective in getting the natural lubricants moving, such as synovial fluid and oxygen carrying blood.  It is like the oil in one’s car which keeps the parts lubricated and capable of movement.  Without it you seize up.

Obviously important is that the muscles should be strong and in shape for exercise.  Therefore, the approach should be to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of the workout.  Equally important at the end of exercise is to stretch the muscles.  During a workout the muscles have contracted.   One does not want to leave them like that, so now they need to be elongated with stretching.

Body awareness is an important attribute to know exactly what the muscles are doing, and promotes better sense of balance, motor coordination, weight distribution and core strength.  This is known as proprioceptive awareness.  Exercises on a wobble board can help develop this skill.

Plyometric exercises, or jump training, can be helpful once the body has developed some strength and ability as they help condition tendons muscles and ligaments for greater activity.  These jumps often imitate the movements used in such sports as tennis, soccer, volleyball, basketball and skiing.  As much as you would wish to rush the process of physical conditioning, this is one that it would be advisable to incorporate gradually into your fitness routine.

Correct footwear is of utmost importance, especially if you are involved in sports that involve impact.  Good shoes will offer ankle support as well as cushioning and support for the legs and feet.

At the end of your physical activity it is recommended to do a proper cool-down routine because this will help the body repair itself.  This routine might include a less vigorous approximation of the activity that you have been doing.  For example, following a sprint, a gentle jog or walk might help.  Apply deep breathing techniques as this helps oxygenate the body tissue.  Finally, apply static stretching.   I am astounded when I see participants in exercise classes at my local gym skip out early from this part of their training.  This part of a workout is essential to avoid injury.   Heather, our personal trainer, always spends time in helping you stretch effectively.

In the second part of this blog I will discuss how to treat an Achilles Tendonitis.