Get a Leg Up on Tendon Pain: Expert Advice from a Podiatrist
As we all return to warm-weather sports and activities, the season for tendon injuries is in full swing. Every year, roughly 33 million Americans suffer from tendon and ligament injuries. Most are related to trauma or sudden physical activity, though overuse and aging can also contribute. While very common, tendon pain can be incredibly debilitating, limiting your ability to move and function normally.
One of the most commonly affected tendons is the Achilles tendon, which is located at the back of the ankle and connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Of course, you have multiple tendons in your ankle, heel, and foot, and all of them are vulnerable to injury. So let’s talk a little bit more about the range of these injuries and how to stay on your feet this spring!
The Tendons, Ligaments, & Muscles of Your Foot
We’ll start with a (very brief) anatomy lesson so you have a better understanding of what can go wrong in the foot and ankle. Tendons and ligaments are soft tissues that connect your muscles and joints. Tendons attach your muscles to your bones, while ligaments attach bones together.
Each foot and ankle has over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments all working together to give you balance, strength, and mobility. That includes four major groups or networks of tendons:
- Posterior tendons (on the back side of your body, where the Achilles tendon is located)
- Medial tendons (on the inside of your leg and foot)
- Anterior tendons (on the front side of your body)
- Lateral tendons (on the outside of your leg and foot)
How Do I Know if I Injured a Ligament or Tendon?
These two types of injuries can have similar symptoms, and you probably won’t be able to tell the difference on your own. Common injuries to these tissues include:
- Strains (stretches and small tears in a tendon)
- Sprains (stretches and small tears in a ligament)
- Inflammation (known as tendinitis)
- Ruptures (severe tears)
- Tendinosis (the degeneration and deterioration of a tendon over time)
All of these injuries can cause problems ranging from mild irritation to full-blown, excruciating pain. Visit your local podiatrist if you experience:
- Heel pain, foot pain, or ankle pain that lasts more than a couple of days
- Difficulty moving your foot or ankle in a particular direction
- A sound or feeling of “crunchiness” in the affected area
- Swelling, redness, and/or a feeling of warmth
- A snapping or popping sensation
- Tenderness to the touch
Post-Injury Treatment for Tendon Pain
If you do experience a tendon injury, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible to prevent further damage. Once we know the exact cause of the problem, we can recommend the right treatment plan, which may include one or more of the following options.
Rest and Immobilization
Resting the affected area is one of the most important things you can do to aid in the healing process. Depending on the severity of the injury, we may recommend wearing a brace or cast to immobilize the affected tendon, reducing stress and allowing it to heal.
Multiwave Locked System (MLS) Laser Therapy
Modern science has given us modern solutions. MLS Laser Therapy can be a critical component of tendon injury recovery, especially for moderate to severe cases.
This treatment uses two targeted wavelengths of light to penetrate safely into the site of soft tissue injuries. The light energy optimizes your body’s natural healing process at the cellular level, reducing inflammation, boosting collagen production, relieving tendon pain, and more!
In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair a severely damaged tendon. We only recommend surgery if the tendon is completely torn or if all other treatments have not been effective. If we reach this point, we’ll talk with you about all of your options to make sure you’re comfortable with your decision.
Preventing Tendon & Ligament Injuries
If none of the above treatment options sound like the way you want to spend your spring break, it’s time to think about prevention. With a little mindfulness about physical preparation, careful attention to footwear, and a focus on technique, you can safely get the ball rolling on spring activities.
Warm-Up & Stretching
Before any physical activity, it’s important to properly warm up your muscles to improve flexibility and range of motion. Start with some light cardio exercises like jumping jacks or walking for a few minutes. After your workout, do some stretching exercises that focus on your lower leg muscles.
Shoes should fit well, provide adequate support and cushioning, and be appropriate for the activity you’re doing. For example, running shoes should have a cushioned sole to absorb shock and reduce stress on your feet and legs, while hiking boots should provide good ankle support to prevent twisting or spraining.
Technique & Gradual Progression
If you’re new to a particular activity or sport, consider taking lessons from a qualified instructor who can teach you the correct form and technique instead of striking out on your own. Start slowly and gradually increase the intensity to avoid putting unnecessary stress on your tendons and other muscles.
Cross-training can help to prevent overuse injuries by varying the types of activities and movements you do. For example, if you’re a runner, try incorporating strength training or swimming into your routine.
For Any Heel, Ankle, or Foot Pain, Call Lakes Foot & Ankle Associates!
No matter if your tendon pain is the result of wear-and-tear over time or a sudden sports injury, Drs. Shanahan and Petronella of Lakes Foot & Ankle Associates are here to help. We stay on the leading edge of medical treatments and diagnostics so that we can get you back to enjoying the much-needed warmth and sunshine as quickly as possible. Don’t drop the ball on your health this season—call us in for backup today!
Treatment for Achilles Tendon Pain & Beyond in Commerce Twp, MI
At Lakes Foot & Ankle, we strive to be metro Detroit’s #1 destination for full-circle foot and ankle care. Whether you’re concerned about a lingering sports injury that just won’t seem to heal, a toenail problem, or simply unexplained heel pain, we’re ready to get to the root cause and find the optimal solution. Give us a call at (248) 453-2028 or request an appointment online.
It's Time To Leave Foot & Ankle Pain Behind!
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9640 Commerce Rd Suite 102 Commerce Township, MI 48382
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