If you’re an athlete—or really just anyone who likes to get around—a case of Achilles tendinitis can feel like an agonizing punishment.
You just want that aching pain to stop so you can start up your routines again. It can be like having an invisible ball and chain connected to your ankle!
Nobody likes to hear they need to take it easy to allow their Achilles tendon the time needed to recover. However, that down period is exactly what your body needs. Start pushing hard again too soon, and you risk extending your recovery time. Even worse, you could cause more damage that leads to chronic pain and weakness.
How long does Achilles tendinitis take to heal, exactly? That can depend on the severity of the case, your age, activity level, duration of condition before treatment, and other factors. In some cases, a tendon could be fully recovered within 4-6 weeks. In other cases, it might take 3 months or longer.
Patience is key to get back to full speed, but it doesn’t mean you are completely stranded in terms of things you can do to help yourself.
So in addition to the standard rest, ice, and anti-inflammatories, here are some other options that might be considered during your recovery.
The Achilles tendon heals itself by laying down new fibers to replace those that have been damaged or irritated. An eccentric strengthening routine has the goal of aiding the layout of these new fibers, making them better organized and, subsequently, tougher.
Heel drop exercises could be recommended in this sort of regimen. It involves standing on a step, shifting weight to the injured leg, and lowering down, using the uninjured leg to shift back up into the first position.
While this type of exercise has been helpful for improving recovery, performing it incorrectly or under the wrong circumstances might risk further injury. And if fate has it that both your Achilles are injured, that naturally changes everything!
We can recommend exercises for your recovery period that will best suit your needs. Other forms of stretching can also focus on rehabilitating and conditioning areas connected to and surrounding the tendon.
Changes in Footwear/Orthotics
Opting for more supportive shoes can provide an additional level of comfort to your aching Achilles and help distribute weight across the area in a way that doesn’t impede healing.
Minimalistic shoes are likely not going to be helpful to you while you’re recovering. Traditionally styled shoes with more heel support are going to be a better choice.
In some cases, orthotic management might be recommended for further alignment. There is an adjustment period at first, but the long-term benefits are measurable.
Revving Back Up
Once you are cleared to start activities again, it may still not be time for a full return to “normalcy.” The activities that likely resulted in your tendinitis are best eased back into gradually.
While doing this, other activities that place less pressure on the Achilles can be a great way to cross-train and build yourself up as a whole. These may include swimming, cycling, and other low-impact activities where the feet are not hitting against the ground.
(Trampolining is still high-impact even if you’re not touching the ground. Sorry.)
With You Every Step of the Way
Recovering from Achilles tendinitis is never fun. Following your specific treatment recommendations and being patient with yourself will go a long way toward helping you make your return at full power and comfort.
The last thing we want is for Achilles tendinitis to become a recurring problem, causing gradually more pain and weakness over time. Not only do we guide you through recovery, but we help you target the issues that may have caused the problem in the first place. Preventative measures including physical therapy, orthotics, and lifestyle changes can keep you running with lower risks of injury.
Drs. Mikkel Jarman and Brent Weintrub are on your side when it comes to seeing you live a happy, fulfilling, and pain-free life. Contact our Gilbert office at (480) 497-3946 or fill out our online contact form to schedule an appointment. We’d be happy to see you!