Do you have an Achilles tendon injury? If so, this article is for you. We are going to walk you through some of the best ways to heal your Achilles tendon quickly and easily. These tips are backed by scientific research, meaning they work! So, if you want fast relief from pain—or just need a little help with healing, keep reading below.
What is an Achilles Tendon?
An Achilles tendon is the thick tendon that connects your calf muscles to the back of your heel. When you feel pain in this area, it is usually because one or both of these tendons are inflamed or torn (ruptured).
What is an Achilles Tendon Injury?
An Achilles tendon injury is formally known as Achilles tendonitis, and it is a condition where the Achilles tendon becomes inflamed and painful. It has been estimated that it affects up to 18% of runners.
What are the Main Causes of Achilles Tendon Injury?
Injuries to the Achilles tendons can happen when you overuse them while doing exercising like running, jumping rope, etc. However, they can also get stressed due to other injuries.
What Causes Achilles Tendon Pain?
Tendon pain to the Achilles usually results from repetitive micro-tears in the tissue that is not allowed time to heal properly before being irritated again with exercise or other activities. The pain can be so severe that the athlete may need to stop participating in their sport for months or even years if they don't get treatment. Luckily, there are many ways you can heal your Achilles injury quickly.
Symptoms of Achilles Tendon Injury
Although it requires a medical diagnosis, the most common symptom of injury to the Achilles is pain or tenderness in the back of your heel where it connects with the tendon. This will usually get worse when you exercise and may cause a popping or snapping sensation that can be heard by others nearby or even yourself were to put your ear down to the injured area. The pain may also be accompanied by swelling, bruising, redness or warmth around the injury site.
Other symptoms include:
- Decreased strength or motion in your calf muscle
- A visible limp when walking due to the pain of trying to bear weight on the affected foot, especially after exercise or activity
- Difficulty or pain that is felt when trying to pull your toes up towards your shin (this may only be possible with the help of a towel because it can be difficult and even painful to do so)
How to Treat Achilles Tendon Pain
There are many ways you can speed up the recovery time from this injury and get back to doing the activities you used to enjoy before suffering from pain. We have compiled a list of these treatments below:
- Rest, Ice & Compression: One of the most important things for this type of injury is rest in order to allow your body's natural ability to heal itself. To avoid further irritation or tearing when exercising, ice the area for 15-20 minutes a few times during the day and limit any activity that is painful. If you have chronic pain in this area, compression can also help reduce swelling further to give your body an edge when it comes to healing time.
- Utilize wearable technology: Certain types of clothing like TRUEENERGY’S performance socks use NASA-inspired infrared technology to improve circulation and tissue regeneration—which helps with faster post-exercise recovery and pain relief from all types of foot injuries (including those to the Achilles tendon). In addition, custom-molded insoles or orthotics can provide extra cushioning, support and stability. These are designed by podiatrists to help reduce the amount of stress on your Achilles tendon when moving around, which can also speed up recovery time considerably.
- Use Athletic Wraps and Tape: For those with chronic pain or an injury that is not healing properly, you can use athletic wraps and tape to help reduce the stress on your tendon. The idea here is similar to how a physical therapist would treat this condition by providing support through taping in order for it to heal faster.
How to Wrap the Achilles Tendon with Ace Bandages
You can wrap and protect the affected area with Ace bandages by following these three simple steps:
- Begin by wrapping the area just below your knee with an ace wrap. Leave a little bit of room to pull through on both ends so you will be able to tie it off at the end without too much difficulty. You can also use pre-wrap or athletic tape if needed in order to make the process easier.
- Continue wrapping the area with a “Figure Eight” pattern all the way up to your mid-calf, near the back of your leg and over to your Achilles tendon on both sides of it where you will end by tying off in a knot or double knot. Then, add another layer from below this point going upwards towards your knee again for a second layer.
- If you have a chronic injury that is slow to heal, you can add another ace bandage or wrap from your mid-calf upwards in order to provide the most support and compression around this area for even faster recovery time when it comes to healing an Achilles tendon.
This video can also show you how to wrap an Achilles tendon with Ace bandages using the Figure Eight technique: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGFznb-5jTo
The Best Taping Methods
Achilles tendon taping typically involves using athletic or kinesiology tape. In the case of athletic tape, it creates a foundation that reduces movement, allowing the tendons and tissues adequate time to recover and heal. Kinesiology tape, on the other hand, works a little differently. It functions by lifting the skin slightly away from the muscle tissue underneath it so that there's space for blood vessels to flow through freely. The increased circulation also helps with the faster removal of waste products like lactic acid, which is often responsible for causing that painful, burning sensation in your muscles after a tough workout.
Steps for Taping the Achilles with Athletic Tape
Below are the steps you can take to tape and protect the Achilles tendon with athletic tape:
- Start by placing a section of under-wrap section over your ankle and back of the foot.
- Wrap two sections of the tape over the top part of your ankle and the ball of your foot. This piece will act as an anchor section.
- Beginning at the back part of the calf and across the anchor portion, lay one wide swath of athletic tape down and extending to the bottom of your foot to the anchor section.
- Keep going with a couple of sections of the wide athletic tape, making an “X” pattern.
- Secure the area of the wide tape by adding more anchor pieces across your foot and ankle.
If you have a little trouble visualizing that, check out this video on how to tape your injured Achilles with athletic tape here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fQZj1SZkOM&t=221s
Steps for Taping the Achilles with Kinesiology Tape
- Start by getting a comfortable chair and sitting down. Then, bring the foot that is affected up and onto the knee of your other leg.
- Flex the affected ankle a bit. Next, place a 2-inch section that will act as an anchor on the bottom part of your foot. The unused section of the tape will be directed towards the muscles on your calf.
- Pull the tape down to your calf by using a slight stretching motion.
- Take a half of the piece of stretched tape, and with a moderate stretch, place it across the backside of your heel.
- Lastly, you can utilize a 2nd, half-sized piece of kinesiology tape to place over any additional points of pain.
You can watch this video to see how to do it here: youtube.com/watch?v=T5NUbNkB_oA&t=11s
How to Strengthen the Achilles Tendon
If you've injured your Achilles, it's important to avoid strenuous exercise for at least the first four weeks of healing. However, that doesn't mean you can't strengthen it or work on building up other areas in order to help aid this area.
In fact, there are plenty of things you can do with resistance bands and ankle weights to help strengthen the area. You can do them seated or standing and even while you're watching TV at home.
These videos brought courtesy of Vive Health contain provides stretches you can try in conjunction with taping techniques for a comprehensive Achilles recovery plan:
- How to Perform a Standing Calf Stretch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e01Nmo5eQgs&t=2s
- Stretches and Exercises for Calf Pain https://www.vivehealth.com/blogs/resources/achilles-tendon-stretches
Tips for Achilles Tendon Health
- Keep hydrated to reduce the risk of poor tissue health and painful Charley horses.
- Watch medications you take, as some of their side effects can affect your ankle health.
- Avoid or modify any movements or stretches that aggravate any ankle, foot or leg conditions
- Never force stretches. You should be able to breathe and relax with very little pain involved
- Stretching before and after exercise will reduce risk of injury
- If you’re having trouble with some pain during stretching, warm up your muscles with heat or a massage before attempting