Achilles tendinitis nearly sidelined me for good.

22 Aug

About a year and a half ago, I was at a point where I was running on a treadmill religiously. The one running group that I ran with only met on Saturday mornings, so that left me running solo during the mostof the week. I was just starting to train for a marathon, so getting in my scheduled runs was very important. At the time, my husband was in night school two nights a week finishing his degree, so I found it much more “social” of me to be hitting the treadmill at the gym than going right home. Plus, I knew that if I went home to an empty house, I might get sidetracked and start doing other things other than run.

Hitting the gym meant hitting the treadmill. Wanting to mimic the great outdoors, I made sure to set the treadmill on at least a 1% incline. After about a month of running on it, I started to notice this weird creaking in my right Achilles tendon. The best way to describe it is this…imagine an old episode of The Munsters or The Adams Family and think about the sound effect used when a spooky old gate swings. THAT is what it felt like AND sounded like whenever I flexed my right foot. It was weird…and sounded gross. Concerned about my symptoms, I immediately headed over to WebMD.

Turns out that I either had foot cancer or Achilles tendinitis…I went with Achilles tendinitis.

Red Spot = No bueno.


Going down the checklist of typical symptoms, I knew this is what was plaguing me. Here are some things that can cause Achilles tendinitis (according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons):
• Rapidly increasing your running mileage or speed (CHECK!)
• Adding hill running or stair climbing to your routine (CHECK!)
• Starting up too quickly after a layoff from exercise (CHECK!)
• Overuse resulting from a natural lack of flexibility in your calf muscles
• Flattening of the arch of your foot
• Trauma caused by sudden and/or hard contractions of your calf muscles (such as sprints) (CHECK!)

So now that I figured out what I had, I had to figure out how to get rid of it.

The simplest solution I could find anywhere was…RICE. Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation.

I hate the RICE treatment.

Why couldn’t this be like a cut where I throw some Neosporin and a Band-Aid on it and go about my business as usual? *sigh*

I *HATE* resting. I *HATE* being kept from what I love to do most. What is even more frustrating is that the very activity that I love most is the root cause of my pain! What the heck!?

Stupidly, I tried (in vain) to run through my pain. Once I warmed up, everything felt fine. However, the second my ankle started to cool down, the creaking and popping set in again…worsening everyday. Doing more research revealed to me that Achilles tendinitis can actually develop into a chronic problem.

There is no faster way to scare the buhjeebus out of a runner than to threaten them with CHRONIC PAIN…as in scar tissue and pain everyday forever and ever. No, thank you.

Finally, I submitted…knowing that resting would be the ONLY way I would ever get to that marathon. Here are the guidelines I found for recovering from Achilles tendinitis:
MILD INJURY: 100% recovery after 2-10 days
AVERAGE INJURY: 100% recovery after 10-42 days
SEVERE INJURY: 100% recovery after 42-160 days

My recovery efforts also included keeping my leg propped up as much as possible at work (thanks to a spare empty trashcan), icing it in intervals (thanks to my squish CVS Cold Peas Therapy inserts), and keeping it compressed (thanks to my McDavid compression ankle sleeve). I would say, all in all, it took me a good 3-4 weeks to be able to run and feel no pain at all.

However, the joy of being able to run and STILL feel no pain is priceless. I am so glad I put my stubbornness aside and forced myself to rest. I am afraid I wouldn’t be running now if I hadn’t.

I am convinced that my repetitious hill intervals on the treadmill caused my problems, as Achilles tendinitis a classic overuse injury. How I hate the treadmill. But, it gives me an option to keep running on days when it is pouring down rain, below 20 degrees, or when it is just too hot for this pregnant runner to be outside. So, I am learning to love it again…or at least tolerate it. And to keep my body from ever getting close to this injury ever again, I take great care in making sure I supplement treadmill runs with outdoor runs. Outdoor runs allow my foot strike to vary more often so my muscles don’t take quit the same beating.

If you think you might be developing Achilles tendinitis, I highly encourage you to rest and incorporate these stretches into your routine. Prevention and stretching is SO important.

Stretch, stretch, and stretch some more.

What is the WORST running injury you have ever faced? How long did it take you away from running? How did you deal with it?

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13 Responses to “Achilles tendinitis nearly sidelined me for good.”

  1. Renee August 22, 2011 at 9:39 AM #

    I managed to get a stress fracture in my right femur. People always stare at me and ask how I did that. It happened while marathon training. I was working with a coach so it wasn’t me making up the mileage. I did build up, but my body did not tolerate the high mileage. I had to pull out of the Chicago Marathon and ended up not running for almost four months. I was miserable. Thankfully I could bike and swim, but a stress fracture means absolutely no running. It is so hard to listen to our bodies when they are hurting and to know which pain is the one that means STOP. I would really, really like to stay out of the orthopedic doctor’s office for a whole 12 months.

    • hauterunningmama August 22, 2011 at 11:03 AM #

      PF has got to be the worst injury I have ever had. It lingers FOREVER! My left achilles is currently sore and I am certain it is tendonitis. I am so sad because I have a warrior challenge in 3 weeks in Hawaii! I am currently icing/compressing and now resting after yesterdays race. I am supposed to run a 4 mile race this Sunday but if its hurts I am out. I just hope to be ready for the LV Marathon on 12/4!

  2. deep south runner August 22, 2011 at 9:47 AM #

    I am dealing with IT band syndrome right now and it’s frustrating because it’s not getting worse but it’s not going away. It is very frustrating “resting” when I don’t want to! I never understood how frustrating a running injury could be until now ;(

    • Susan August 22, 2011 at 11:59 AM #

      last time I had IT band issues and couldn’t shake it…I used a foam roller (a fun noodle pool toy will work in a bind). it hurts like the dickens but it did help get rid of it!

  3. Keegan August 22, 2011 at 10:42 AM #

    Though I haven’t had a serious injury, I have had shin splints before. I just remember them being so painful and the only remedy was RICE. I feel just like you Katie, I hate not being able to do my workouts when I’m sick or injured. I have to do something!

    • katieRUNSthis August 22, 2011 at 10:45 AM #

      Well hey, Keegan! Thanks for dropping by!

      I get *so* frustrated by just having to sit there and wait for something to heal. I think I may have even cursed at my ankle at one point. 🙂 Shin splints are pretty bad too. When I feel them coming on, the first thing I do when I get home is put on my compression calf sleeves. If I wear them throughout the day and then sleep in them, I am usually good to go the next day…as long as I don’t overdo it on the next run.

  4. Susan August 22, 2011 at 11:57 AM #

    I’ve had a lot of injuries… my body isn’t really built to be a runner but I love it so I work with what I’ve got. The worst, I think, was shin splints (the entire duration of marathon training). I couldn’t shake them… even RICE didn’t work… I did PT while training (which probably got me through the marathon) but to no win. I did finish my marathon but even after the marathon, and weeks off from running, they still continued to be ‘tweaky.’ YOGA finally has gotten rid of them! HOORAY FOR YOGA!

    Overall, making sure my shoes aren’t worn out, making sure my orthotics aren’t worn out (overpronator–MUST have custom orthotics), and listening to my body keeps me running injury free. RICE is a trusty method that def comes in handy.

  5. Courtenay August 22, 2011 at 1:45 PM #

    I’m on my 11th injury THIS YEAR. Some have taken a lot longer to heal than others (labral tears in hips, calf strain), and I’m positive tomorrow I’ll be officially diagnosed with plantar fasciitis.

    I’m pretty much over it. And so mentally depleted from it. Trying to get a running coach to help with my form and fix some biomechanics. I thankfully have a wonderful sports med doc who has performed miracles on my body, but even my medical insurance is starting to cut me off. No joke.

    This has been one of the most trying years of my entire life. Some days are better than others.

  6. italianhousewife August 22, 2011 at 5:04 PM #

    Hey there!

    I partially ruptured my achilles tendon two years ago and i’m still recovering *sigh*

    My tendon was apparently weakened due to overuse. 😦

  7. Heather (Where's the Beach) August 22, 2011 at 7:36 PM #

    Ouch – for me it was IT band blow out. I had no symptoms leading up to the day it happened, but 4.5 miles into a 9-mile run, it happened. And I kept going. I have never hurt so bad and was sidelined for a solid month before being able to even run a mile with no pain. I invested in a Triggerpoint therapy kit and roll, stretch, and strength train.

  8. Concrete Runner August 22, 2011 at 8:27 PM #

    Yuck – achilles tendonitis is NOT fun. No tendonitis is, that’s for sure. My worst injury was a stress fracture in a small bone (sesamoid bone) in my right foot – on the ball of my foot. I was in a boot for 6 weeks + 6 more weeks of not running. TORTURE!

  9. Courtney Duzyk August 25, 2011 at 8:28 AM #

    I’m actually suffering through the Achilles issues right now. It’s awful! I hate waiting it out, especially since some days I feel fine, and others not so much. I’ve been taking it easy and icing and wearing my compression ankle deal, but I’m itching to get out and running again! Sigh.

  10. Runners Groove August 29, 2011 at 5:44 PM #

    I definitely get what you mean, not running scares the daylights out of me! I’m so scared that my ankle overuse injury is coming back. I’m already taking it easy. I don’t like to run outside, but I might have to resort to doing that plus buying new shoes (and they say running is an inexpensive sport…psh!)

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