How do I treat an Achilles tendon pull?

A diagram of the Achilles tendon and common tendon problems.

Treating an Achilles tendon strain is not a difficult process, but it must be done to ensure that the condition does not get worse. Most prescribed treatments involve rest, followed by protection of the tendon, and then exercises that can help strengthen the tendon or the area around it. If the injury is ignored, the Achilles tendon can eventually tear, with surgery and a cast being the most common options at this point.

An Achilles tendon strain can occur in high-impact sports such as tennis.

If you are not sure whether you have an Achilles tendon strain, see your doctor. Often, the doctor may want to examine you in person to make sure something else isn’t causing the pain. Your doctor may also prescribe a non-steroidal inflammatory drug (NSAID) to help or suggest that you use an over-the-counter medication until the inflammation subsides.

Using crutches can help ensure that no further damage is done to the Achilles tendon injury.

Most of the time, when a person strains their Achilles tendon, it is a result of exercise, playing sports, or because of physically demanding work. It is common in high-impact sports such as tennis and track and field. As soon as you feel pain in the tendon, immediately stop the activity. Applying ice as often as possible can help soothe the injury, but cold therapy should not be applied for more than 15 minutes at a time.

Contraction of the calf muscles pulls up the Achilles tendon.

The next step is to rest the injury as much as possible. If you feel uncomfortable walking, stay on the floor. Otherwise, a light walk may be fine, but crutches or a wheelchair will help ensure that there is no further damage to the tendon. The time to stay out of an Achilles tendon strain varies greatly, and each patient must determine when the pain has subsided.

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An ankle brace can provide support and stability to an injured Achilles tendon.

Once the pain has passed, avoiding another pull is of great importance. Wearing an ankle bandage or Achilles tendon support should help keep the area compressed and prevent it from moving, which has likely resulted in an Achilles tendon pull. Simply using a non-adhesive bandage can work just as effectively, but other products are more convenient to put on and take off.

The physical therapist may use various stretching techniques to treat an Achilles tendon strain.

A series of exercises can also help strengthen the tendon so that future pulls or tears are less likely. Deep knee bends, toe or calf stretches can help strengthen the muscles around the tendon and thus help prevent future injuries. Weightlifting focused on the lower extremities is also beneficial. If you are starting an exercise regimen for a strained Achilles tendon, be careful not to start too soon after the injury or try to do too much. Gradually increase your intensity over a period of time.

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