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Don't Let Your Achilles Tendon Become Your Achilles Heel

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3pdtAre you running a 5k, 10K, marathon or any other race this season? This month we would like to take the time to highlight one of our patients that we will call Bob. Bob, who has run several 5ks, 10ks, and half marathons, decided to step up his training and go for the full marathon this fall. He increased his weekly mileage and intensity of his training to prepare for the longer race. A few weeks into the program, Bob noticed a dull pain above his right heel while running. It did not hurt during the rest of his daily activities, so he decided to continue training, hoping the pain would just go away. A few weeks later, the pain became more intense and hurt during the first few steps each morning. Dejected, Bob started icing the heel, taking Advil, and reluctantly took a week off from running. After a week of rest, he went for a run and, within a few hundred meters, the familiar pain in the heel returned.

If this scenario sounds familiar, you have more than likely had an Achilles tendon injury. This type of injury affects up to 20% of runners, and can easily ruin your race season. Predisposing factors include rapid mileage increase, the wrong shoe and/or orthotic, faulty technique and tight calf muscles. Ignoring the pain is never a good idea! The Achilles tendon is slow to heal because of its poor blood supply, sometimes taking months to resolve completely.

Tendonosis or Tendonitis?

3dptThe term "itis" simply indicates inflammation. Inflammatory responses are often the result of an acute injury or a repetitive stress injury. Once an inflammatory response occurs, it must run its course. The most common approach to an injury of the tendon is to make the inflammation go away. A typical tendonitis will resolve in two to four weeks if it is an acute onset, and if it is a longer-standing tendonitis, it should be better in four to six weeks.

Tendonosis is a degenerative condition and is more of a chronic problem. Tendonosis is characterized by degeneration of the fibers that make up the tendon, tendon weakness, abnormal growth of unhealthy blood vessels through the tendon and most importantly NO inflammatory cells. Basically, the strong fibers of the tendon, which are typically lined up in a nice orderly fashion, become a tangled mess of strings. I can describe this as being like a big bowl of spaghetti that you accidentally left out on the countertop overnight. When you wake up the next morning and look in the bowl, the spaghetti is dried up and a big twisted mess.

The therapists at 3DPT have expertise in treating all running-related injuries and assessing the biomechanics of running. If you are currently preparing for a race and are not feeling 100% or if you haven't been able to train recently you should come and have your injury checked out. Come in today to have a little kink worked out for a short term fix before a race or have a biomechanical running evaluation to prevent an injury down the road.

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"The team at 3DPT is made up of dedicated and caring Physical Therapists whose expertise and hands-on approach are what I seek for my patients. It is their fundamental philosophy that has made my professional experiences with them nothing short of exemplary."

     -      Dr. Kathryn Gollotto, DO - Orthopedic Reconstruction Specialists