Q&A: Running with Achilles Pain

I have a nagging pain in my Achilles. What are some suggestions for treating this, and is it OK to run the United Airlines NYC Half with this problem?

 

Achilles tendinitis is common in runners who have tightness in their calves. It’s likely that the pain in your Achilles has come on gradually over time, and you may also feel pain when climbing stairs or after sleeping or sitting for long periods. You may also notice a bump either within the tendon  or right behind the heel bone, and you may find  that certain shoes bother the tendon by rubbing against the bump.

You’re wise to pay attention to this injury, because without treatment the tendon fibers may become permanently damaged, leading to partial tears or even rupture of the tendon.  Your treatment depends on the length and severity of the symptoms. Your first strategy should be to try resting and taking anti-inflammatory medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) to help quiet down the swelling. Wearing shoes that have a slight heel lift rather than flat shoes may relieve your tightness and pain. Heel cups can reduce pain by taking some of the stress off of the Achilles. In severe cases, a doctor may recommend immobilization in a boot.

Physical therapy may be recommended to work on stretching and improving mobility within the calf muscle. Stretching is a key part of treatment as the tendon is often tight. Conservative management may take several months to show improved symptoms.

As for running the United Airlines NYC Half, you may want to consider cancelling your entry, depending on the severity of your symptoms. Information on cancellation can be found here.
 

ABOUT THIS CONTRIBUTOR

Dr. Mark Drakos

Dr. Mark Drakos is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in disorders of the foot and ankle as well as sports-related injuries. He did his undergraduate work in biomedical engineering at Harvard University and received his medical degree from SUNY Stony Brook. Dr. Drakos is the author of more than 50 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and presentations involving orthopedics. He has provided care for high school, collegiate, professional, and Olympic athletes. 

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