Tendon strains are common injuries during sports often plaguing runners and cyclists, footballers, tennis players, and basketball players. However, tendon strains are not limited to athletes as many people will experience a strain to the Achilles tendon at some point in their lives because it is used for walking and other everyday activities. In fact, due to the frequent demands on our Achilles tendons our Achilles tendons function with approximately 20% damage at all times and are constantly going through the tissue repair process.
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 cold compression and Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™. 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 Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy (BFST®) 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 cold compression and BFST®. It is also recommended that you allow your ankle to rest and possibly 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 BFST® can be used prior to surgery to minimize tissue damage, resulting in a less invasive surgery.
In addition, using these therapies following surgery will help to repair and strengthen the Achilles tendon faster 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.
Tendon 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.
Causes of Tendon Strain
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 overtime.
Achilles Tendon Treatments
It is important to treat Achilles tendon injuries as soon as possible, as any activity or strain you put on your tendon can re-injure it further. Though the pain, discomfort, and inconvenience of an Achilles condition can be overwhelming, it is possible to overcome it.
The trick with any tendon injury is getting it to heal with minimal scar tissue formation. Even with optimum healing, there is always less elasticity in a previously injured tendon. This will cause the tendon to hurt, during exercise and everyday activities. However, if you heal your injury efficiently and quickly, your chance of re-injury later on is much lower than average.
Allowing your Achilles tendon to rest is always recommended following injury. Avoid all activities that may have caused the injury or irritation and begin cold compression treatments as soon as possible. The Achilles tendon is a difficult tendon to rest completely as it is an essential tendon for walking and daily activities. Fortunately, there are healing tools that can help treat your tendon and speed up the healing process so you can get back to a life without pain and risk of further injury. Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™ (BFST®) will promote blood flow to heal your tendon faster and more completely than any other methods available.
Although steroid injections may provide temporary relief from the pain of Achilles tendinitis, they should generally be avoided as they weaken the tendon and may lead to a 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.
Freezie Wrap® Cold Compression Therapy
Doctors recommend using cold compression as soon as possible following an acute Achilles injury and re-injury to reduce pain and swelling and minimize tissue damage that occurs with soft tissue injuries like tendon tears.
The Ankle/Achilles Freezie Wrap® allows you to treat your Achilles tendon in an effective and convenient way. The wrap is adjustable which allows you to control the compression to a level that is comfortable for you and the gel packs are chilled in the fridge not the freezer. This eliminates the risk of cryoburn, or 'cold burns', on your skin that can be cause by ice and strandard freezer gel packs. You can also wear the Freezie Wrap® for longer treatments so you can enjoy even more relief from your Achilles pain!
Cold Compression Therapy works by interrupting and slowing nerve and cell function in the injured area and reducing swelling that can block blood vessels. This is important because once blood vessels are blocked or damaged, they can no longer carry oxygenated blood through the Achilles tendon and tissue cells begin to break-down. Without cold compression therapy cellular break-down and tissue damage continues as the cells do not get the oxygen they need to survive. By limiting the amount of damage done to your tendon, you also limit the amount of healing that needs to occur. This is a very important step to heal your tendon faster and with less pain!
The deep cooling effect provided by the Ankle/Achilles Freezie Wrap® gives you the fast, effective relief your sore Achilles tendon has been looking for!
Inferno Wrap® Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™
After the inflammation and swelling is gone you can begin to treat your Achilles tendon with Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™, or BFST®. BFST® increases the amount of blood that flows naturally to your ankle to nourish your tendons, ligaments and muscles to speed healing.
The Achilles tendon receives a limited blood supply compared to other tendons in the body and this significantly reduces its natural ability to heal itself.
By treating your Achilles tendon with BFST® you can increase your body's blood supply to the ankle and increase your body's natural healing power. In addition, the fresh blood flow whisks away dead cells and toxins that have built up from the injury leaving the area clean and able to heal faster. Our Ankle/Achilles Inferno Wrap® provides effective, non-invasive, non-addictive pain relief and healing with no side effects.
Click Here to learn more about how Inferno Wrap® BFST® works
With these easy-to-use, home therapies you will notice incredible improvement in the flexibility of your Achilles and reduced pain. The more diligent you are with your treatment and rehabilitation, the faster you will see successful results!
Preventing Achilles Tendon Injuries
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Some methods of preventing Achilles tendon injuries include:
- Using an Inferno Wrap® on your ankle before exercising, and using a Freezie Wrap® after exercising.
- Increasing exercise intensity slowly - to condition your tendon to higher levels of exertion/stress.
- Stretching your tendon before and after exercise (warm up and cool down).
- Wearing shoes that fit correctly (cushioning under the heel and proper arch height) and support your feet.
- Running on softer, flat terrain is advisable to avoid injuring or re-injuring your Achilles tendon.
Please be aware that this information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.