Strained Achilles Tendon
A strained tendon is a common injury that is quite debilitating as we use our Achilles tendon everyday for walking and other common activities. Achilles tendon strains are very common to runners and cyclists, as well as football, tennis and basketball players. Quite a large number of people will experience a strain to their Achilles tendon at some point in their lives. In fact, due to the frequent demands on our Achilles tendons, on average, our Achilles tendons function with 20% damage at all times and are constantly going through the tissue repair process.
If you have a strained Achilles tendon, it is very important to make sure it heals properly to decrease the chance of re-injuring the tendon. Re-injury of a strained or stressed tendon occurs more easily than the initial injury and there is usually more inflammation around a re-injured tendon than there was during the first injury. An Achilles strain left untreated can easily become a chronic problem that disrupts your ease of walking and participation in activities that you enjoy, something we often take for granted.
A strain that goes left untreated can cause more pain in the tendon and may be a sign of chronic tendonitis (also spelled tendinitis). Achilles chronic tendonitis is a degenerative condition in the tendon fibres that attach the calf muscles, called the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, to the calcaneus (heel bone) at the back of the subtalar joint (also known as the talocalcaneal joint) in the ankle. Sufferers generally complain of a severe, burning pain in the area, which gradually worsens and is exacerbated by stress on the joint.
Grades of Tendon Strains
A tendon or muscle can be strained to varying degrees depending on the force that caused the strain and the strength of the tendon or muscle tissue. There are 3 difference grades of tendon strains and the grade is determined by the severity of the tissue damage.
Grade 1 - Mild Strain
A grade 1 strain is the least serious of Achilles tendon strains. With a grade 1 strain there is some stretching or minor tearing of the Achilles tendon tissue. These injuries usually heal quickly if treated properly with a Cold Compress or Ice Pack. Once the stretching and tearing has healed, it is important to improve the health of the tendon and restore the elasticity to the Achilles tendon with Circulation Boost to reduce the risk of restraining it again.
Grade 2 - Moderate Strain
A grade 2 strain occurs when a tendon or muscle is partially torn but still intact. If you have a grade 2 strain, strength in the Achilles tendon and gastrocnemius and soleus muscles is noticeably reduced. Approximately 75% of grade 2 tears occur in sports that involve sprinting or repetitive jumping. This grade of strain can also be effectively treated with conservative treatments such as cold compression, rest, elevation and a T•Shellz Wrap® utilitizing Circulation Boost. It may also be recommended that you wear a brace to immobilize the ankle and allow the Achilles tendon tear to heal.
Grade 3 - Rupture or Severe Strain
When the Achilles tendon is completely torn (ruptured) it is considered a grade 3 tear. The stability of the ankle is greatly reduced and pain is evident. Treatment of a complete Achilles tendon tear requires surgery to rejoin the Achilles tendon to the calcaneus (heel bone) or back together at the point of the tear on the tendon. Cold compression and Circulatory Boost using the T•Shellz Wrap® can be used prior to surgery to minimize tissue damage and swelling induced pain, resulting in a less invasive surgery. Once your surgery is complete, talk with your surgeon about incorporating our Achilles T•Shellz Wrap® for your post-surgery rehabilitation.
In addition, using these therapies following surgery will help to strengthen the Achilles tendon quickly and more completely. With these therapies you will have less scar tissue formation on your Achilles tendon leaving it more elastic and less painful than if it was left to heal on its own.
Achilles Strain Symptoms
If you have suffered an Achilles tendon strain you may be experiencing the following symptoms:
- Pain in your Achilles tendon when you flex or extend your foot.
- Muscle spasm in the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles of the calf.
- Pain, tenderness, and a crackling noise may occur when the Achilles tendon is examined by touch (palpated).
- Failure of the foot flexing when squeezing the calf muscles (The Thompson Test).
- Noticeable loss of strength in a grade 2 or 3 Achilles tendon strain.
Achilles Strain Causes
A strain in the Achilles tendon is caused by excessive twisting and turning, a sudden traumatic injury, improper training or overuse during a prolonged period of time.
Whether you are a runner/athlete, painting on a ladder, or walking on ice, an unfortunate twist and awkward fall can cause you to strain your Achilles tendon if it is twisted abnormally. As well, using your Achilles when it is not warmed up properly (i.e. sprinting or overstretching it before the fibres are warm) can also lead to an acute strain. Repetitive overuse of the calf muscles and the Achilles tendon can cause a strain over time.
Home Recovery For A Strained Achilles
If you have an achilles tendon injury, rest is recommended, however, some careful movement is required to prevent the joint from freezing and losing range of motion. See your doctor or physical therapist (PT) for stretches that will not cause further injury to your achilles. Avoid activities that cause pain or may have caused the injury and begin cold compression treatments as soon as possible.
The trick with any Achilles tendon injury is getting your achilles back in the best possible condition you can quickly. This means getting the tendon to heal quick to minimize scar tissue growth - something our T•Shellz Wraps® are intended for. Even with optimum healing, there is always less elasticity in a previously injured tendon. This will cause your Achilles tendon to hurt during regular movement and exercise. However, if you heal your injury efficiently and quickly, your chance of re-injury later on is much lower than average.
The Achilles tendon is a difficult tendon to rest completely as it is an essential tendon for walking and daily activities. Fortunately, there are tools that can help boost blood circulation to the Achilles region, strengthening the ability of the body to heal soft tissue. We feel this can help you get back to a life without pain and risk of further injury. The use of a T•Shellz Wrap® (Circulatory Boost) is intended to increase elasticity of soft tissue while promoting blood flow (vasodilation) at the treatment site.
Although steroid injections may provide temporary relief from the pain of an achilles injury they should generally be undertaken with caution as they weaken the tendon and may lead to a complete rupture. If you do opt for an injection, doctors usually recommend that you do not participate in strenuous activities for several weeks to reduce the risk of a rupture.
Conservative Treatment Step 1: Reduce The Initial Inflammation
Inflammation is the body's natural response to an immediate achilles injury and is a normal part of the healing process - helping to reduce tissue infection in the early stages of injury. Swelling, pain, heat sensation, redness, and loss of function are the main symptoms experienced.
The combination of rest, topical pain relief cream and minor amounts of cold is the gold standard in medicine for minimizing tissue damage and reducing inflammation after injury or activity. It serves as a critical bridge into the next phase of the healing process.
Conservative Treatment Step 2: Enhance Blood Flow to the Injured Soft Tissue
Once the inflammation in your Achilles tendon has been reduced, nourishing and strengthening the tissue in the Achilles tendon and surrounding area is recommended.
When you have a tendon injury, there is not much blood flow in your injured tendon, especially if it is in the watershed zone, which it probably is. Inflammation and reduced movement (lack of activity or on-going immobility) reduces the flow of blood to an area that is already receiving very little blood flow. If you are moving your injured Achilles around you run a risk of increasing the severity of the injury. If there has been some healing, you could re-injure your tendon all over again.
It is through the blood the body carries the nutrients and oxygen that injured tissues rely on for recovery.. It is well known that increased blood flow helps your body accelerate the healing process.
This is why the T•Shellz Wrap®is such an important tool. The whole purpose of the wrap is to provide localized heat while also significantly increasing blood flow to tissue in the treatment area. The result of this is as follows:
- Blood vessels within the treatment area relax and naturally expand (this is termed "vasodilation") permitting more blood flow to reach the very tissues you are trying to heal.
- When tissue temperature increases, the tissues increase both in length and flexiblity. Elongated and flexible tissue is less likely to strain and tear, so your risk of further injury and/or reinjury is reduced when this occurs. Less injury during recovery means 1) your recovery will be streamlined and not sidelined due to recurring injury, and 2) less re-injury will mean less scar tissue should grow in the area.
- Enhanced blood flow benefits tissue in a number of ways: 1) It is likely to clear the area of toxins and excess fluid build up more quickly, thereby reducing inflammation and 2) Scar tissue can form in areas that are starved for blood flow - an enhanced blood flow is more likely to reduce such occurrences.
T•Shellz Wraps® contain a unique Carbon Fiber Energy Pad which is flexible and will shape to conform to your body. This Energy Pad emits a uniform wave of perfectly safe energy over its entire surface. This energy is absorbed by soft tissue in your achilles and lower leg, opening blood vessels, resulting in an increase in blood flow. Increased blood circulation is what your body needs to accelerate the healing of soft tissue and this is why we recommend the Achilles T•Shellz Wrap® for the achilles heel area.
Conservative Treatment Step 3: Recognize That Healing is a Process
With dedication, the right tools, and the right information - you will achieve your goal of a sustainable recovery. A combination approach of cold compression, heat treatments, and functional movements will make it happen much more quickly.
In our experience, soft tissue repair rates via conservative home treatment methods using a dedicated, comprehensive approach have surprised many of our clients, but will differ from person to person. In nearly all cases, however, it is very important to stop whatever you were doing that created the injury in the first place (ie. running, jumping, climbing stairs).
The Achilles T•Shellz Wrap® - Improve Your Achilles For The Long Term
The best option we came across in our research to accomplish a boost in blood flow in the treatment area at home is the T•Shellz Wrap®, and it does so in a non-invasive manner.
Have you seen what happens when you add water to a flower wilted from drought? In essence, your injured achilles is much like a "wilted" flower; your body wants to heal its injury, but needs lots of nutrients to do it. Blood brings life to your tissue by delivering healing nutrients and oxygen that are vital for their growth and survival. In addition, the blood carries away toxins and waste cleaning the area and healing it faster. Without a good supply of blood, your achilles simply won't heal properly.
Using a T•Shellz Wrap® will not expose you to the risk of causing further harm to soft tissue like you can when using rigorous exercise. The Achilles T•Shellz Wrap® accomplishes the goal of enhanced blood flow without the need for intensive exercise and as such reduces your risk of re-injury.
A Note On OverCompensation
Since you are reading this, you probably know that serious achilles injuries do not just disappear. Over time, they usually wreak havoc on your knee and ankle due to lack of movement and over-compensation. It will also wreak havoc on your opposite achilles due to overcompensation. Recovery takes a longer time for such chronic (long term) injuries, but proper healing is essential to regain strength and get you back to the activities you enjoy.
The longer your injury endures, the greater the risk of running into serious overcompensation injuries.
To Stop Re-Injury & Reduce the Risk of a More Serious Overcompensation Injury, You Need to Heal Quickly & Completely!
Anyone in need of rapid recovery and complete healing must consider a comprehensive treatment plan that includes an effective means to minimize swelling and inflammation yet also stimulate healing and tissue elasticity. We have found no better set of tools that can be used at home than this:
Conservative Treatment Tools Our Clients Have Used to Help
Limit Achilles Damage & Boost The Body's Soft Tissue Repair Process at Home:
- A Cold Compress or Ice Pack to reduce inflammation wherever there is pain and/or swelling (as soon as possible).
- An Achilles TShellz Wrap to increase blood-flow to the treatment area (Circulatory Boost).
- MendMeShop Arnica Pain Cream for temporary relief of pain due to sore muscles and joints.
- An Exercise & Stretching Plan to prevent muscle atrophy and shortened tendons in the leg. A proper plan will increase elasticity and strengthen the muscles and tendons in the ankle, calf, knee, and upper leg.
Conservative treatment tools just like these have been used successfully by thousands of soft tissue injury sufferers - just like you.
T•Shellz Wrap® = Enhanced Blood Flow in the Treatment Area
We believe the use of T•Shellz Wraps® for boosting blood flow to soft tissue in the area of application is one of the most under-utilized home treatment options available on the market today. We have client after client that have tried many options out there and have been amazed at how effective and fast the TShellz Wrap treatment can relieve pain and increase blood flow in the treatment area.
With regular use of the TShellz Wrap:
- Your pain will be reduced*.
- Due to increased blood flow, soft tissue in the treatment area will be expected to recover at an accelerated rate with reduced potential for re-injury*.
- Tissue in the treated area should experience a larger range of motion and increased extensibility of collagen tissue* due to the heat effect on soft tissue. This should translate into a reduced rate of re-injury occurrence as soft tissue is known to lengthen and become more flexible when exposed to warm temperature. (*Chapter 9 of "Therapeutic Heat and Cold", 4th edition.
(amazon.com link - Ed. Justus F. Lehmann, M.D., Williams, and Wilkin)
Not only does the incorporation of conservative treatments (such as the use of a Cold Compress or Ice Pack and the Achilles T•Shellz Wrap®) greatly assist with the body's recovery process, but it also contributes to minimizing risk of long term complications. Pain, lack of mobility, tendinosis, or a complete tendon rupture are some of the more common long term complications that can occur when achilles tendinitis, tendon tears, and other injuries go untreated. By treating your achilles properly with a doctor recommended home conservative treatment protocol (including a stretching regimen), you can minimize proliferation of scar tissue while maintaining flexibility and strong blood flow in the area. This will help reduce the risk of chronic problems in the future.
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During the healing process and especially in surgery, scar tissue can build on injured soft tissue. This scar tissue can cause tendons, muscles, and bursa to thicken, increasing the chance of impingements.
In addition, scar tissue can bind the tendons, muscles and ligaments together limiting the movement of these tendons and ligaments that were once elastic and allowed the ankle its large range of motion. As a result, movement of the entire joint is limited making it difficult to walk without a limp or do basic tasks such as climb stairs. If left untreated, the ankle may 'freeze' further, making movement even more problematic. At the very least, scar tissue leaves your tendon weaker than a healthy tendon, leaving your achilles at greater risk of further deterioration and possible tearing.
Shortened muscles and tendons due to lack of use is a real problem during recovery. When you start to feel better and use the joint, the shortened muscles and tendons get over-strained, introducing small microtears. These microtears start the formation of scar tissue, which unlike muscle or tendon, is completely inflexible. Once there is scar tissue in there, the tears will continue; eventually you've got a serious problem with a joint that does not flex as much as it did before and this becomes a chronic condition. You'll know you have scar tissue when you get shooting pain if you stretch your joint too far... it is something that PTs often deal with (ie. shoulder manipulation).
To prevent this, use the TShellz Wrap before undertaking any significant activity, as this treatment will actually increase the flexibility of muscles, tendons and ligaments. This is actually why we advise plantar fasciitis sufferers to treat themselves with a Plantar TShellz Wrap first thing in the morning before walking (walking stresses the plantar ligament on the bottom of the foot). After treatment, the plantar ligament is more flexible and can handle higher walking stresses before it starts to micro-tear. The ability for soft tissue to stretch further before micro-tearing will allow you to gently stretch your recovering joint without re-injuring it yet again. This is a huge boon for recovery. We also highly advise the TShellz Wrap it for post surgery recovery, as surgery will always introduce scar tissue and TShellz Wrap treatments in post-op recovery will reduce scar tissue growth, increase joint flexibility and get you back on your feet faster.
During your recovery, you may have to modify and/or eliminate any activities that cause pain or discomfort in your lower leg until your pain and inflammation settle, and you gain more mobility and strength. The more diligent you are with your treatment and rehabilitation, the faster you will see successful results!
Remember: We recommend that you consult your doctor and/or physiotherapist before using any of our outstanding products, to make sure they're right for you and your condition.
PT is a beneficial way to help decrease pain in the soft tissues, restore atrophied muscles and improve ankle strength and mobility. The type of PT and the duration will be dependent on your injury.
Once your pain starts to diminish, a physiotherapist can set up an individualized achilles strengthening and stretching exercise program for you to perform at home or in the gym. This will be based on your needs and abilities, and will help you return to performing your normal routines.
Individuals will often try stretching and leg workouts on their own, to try and build up their strength. However, in doing so, they can do more damage to their achilles. It is extremely important to strengthen your muscles properly, as they may have weakened during the period of non-use. A trained therapist will help to ensure your rehabilitation process is effective. For fast and effective results, use a Cold Compress or Ice Pack and an Achilles T•Shellz Wrap® in conjunction with PT and an exercise program.
NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can be used if required to help manage your pain and inflammation. However, these aren't recommended for long term use, as they can cause gastrointestinal difficulties. Some health professionals have also recommended natural supplements such as glucosamine, MSM or hyaluronic acid to help strengthen the injured tissue.
In many cases of soft tissue injury, the use of a Cold Compress or Ice Pack can greatly reduce the need for NSAIDs. Cold compression is a natural, less harmful way to reduce your pain and inflammation.
If pain and inflammation persist, you can see your physician to investigate injections or topical medications, which may help reduce swelling and inflammation. Your physician will determine whether this is worthwhile on a case-by-case basis.
Consistent exercise and conservative treatment on a daily basis during your rehabilitation while working with your doctor or PT is key. This is why we feel you should consider adding the T•Shellz Wrap® to your home recovery regimen once you are approved for PT.
The more consistent you work at enhancing blood flow to surgically repaired soft tissue, the more consistent the healing process will be. Nourishing the tissues will more oxygen and nutrients (which are carried through the blood stream) will give the body a better ability to produce new, healthy collagen. In effect, you will help the body produce stronger tissues while potentially reducing the number of setbacks that can occur following surgical procedures.
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The Key Points To Keep in Mind When Treating Your Injury
Make Sure That Complete Healing is Your #1 Goal
We all know that if the injury was healed, the pain would go away but what about the opposite situation? If the pain is gone, does that mean the injury is better? Unfortunately, this is not always true.
Too many people only focus on suppressing pain symptoms while providing less attention to the true healing aspects of the body. Experiencing less pain, while obviously a good short-term goal, does not equate to underlying healing. Scar tissue can remain for months after one gets to a point of being relatively pain-free. However, as long the weak and brittle scar tissue remains, you are susceptible to re-injury or re-aggravation. Certain motions or movements can cause the weaker tissue to easily tear - resulting in some reversal of the recovery up until that point.
This is why we recommend for people to continue with their doctor recommended exercises and to continue with mild treatments of the T•Shellz Wrap® for a period of time - to better ensure complete recovery.
Ongoing treatments to enhance circulation are intended to soothe, relax and promote healing of damaged soft tissue in the application area. T•Shellz treatment also results in the ability of soft tissue to extend further due to the effect of heat on soft tissue. The more extensible your tissues are, the less likely they are to strain or sprain.
Resting Your Ankle/Achilles Will Help, But Only Temporarily
People tell us all the time, "I was told that if I stay off my feet for a few weeks, my pain will disappear for good."
The truth is, tendonitis pain is usually a culmination of numerous factors, such as repetitive stress, poor posture, acute injuries, and overcompensation issues resulting from other muscle and soft tissue ailments.
To really deal with a injury, you have to know what the injury is - so get to the doctor and find out the source of the problem.
Soft tissue damage in the lower leg and ankle is typically a result of a tear or strain in your muscle, tendon or ligament. Tendonitis, tendinopathy, tendinosis, tenosynovitis, nerve impingement, general ankle instability, calf muscle spasms, heel bursitis, capsulitis, pain associated with trigger points, scar tissue, and arthritis are not uncommon issues in the lower leg and foot, perhaps especially due to the enormous stresses caused by support the body's weight day in and day out. When dealing with arthritis and/or gout, soft tissue damage would be considered a secondary effect due to the underlying disease; in such cases, soft tissue pain and inflammation can be temporarily alleviated, but until the underlying cause is dealt with, the soft tissue damage will most likely return.
It may take weeks or months for these pain triggers to surface. When they , however, merely resting will solve the underlying issues. You need to utilize actions and options that actually treat the source of the pain and help reverse the damage that has been done.
Resting has a role to play, but it is only one small factor in a recovery plan.
Learn More About Achilles Injuries & Treatments
I want to learn more about Achilles Surgery & Post-Surgery Recovery
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During your recovery, you will probably have to modify and/or eliminate any activities that cause pain or discomfort in your Achilles tendon until your pain and inflammation settle.