Injuring your Achilles tendon can be extremely painful. You use the Achilles tendon grouping a lot, for example, while standing and walking. So, an injury can be especially inconvenient because it affects nearly all of your movements. After the initial recovery period, you might need to abstain from exercise and sports until the tendon has healed completely. In the meantime, stretching exercises can help maintain your range of motion before beginning low-impact exercise again. Check first with your doctor to be sure you are ready.
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During the first 48 to 72 hours after your injury, rest your ankle completely. Achilles tendon injuries are usually the result of a rolled ankle causing strains or tears. It can become a painful, reoccurring injury if not cared for properly. Apply the RICE technique -- rest, ice, compression, elevation -- until you seek medical attention in the first two or three days.
Depending on the severity of your injury, your doctor might tell you to avoid exercise until the ankle has healed completely, about six to eight weeks. This is because further injury in the tendons before they've healed can result in Achilles tendinitis, a painful and permanent condition where the muscles and tendons in the ankle ache routinely. It's important that you heed your doctor's warnings regarding exercise. If you have a less-serious strain versus a painful tear, you might be able to exercise sooner.
While you might not be allowed to exercise during the healing process, stretching your ankle from a seated and standing position can help to rehabilitate the ankle and maintain range of motion. Ankle exercises include sitting in a chair and spelling the alphabet in the air with your big toe, or performing ankle points and flexes. When you're able to stand, position yourself facing a foot away from a wall. Lean in with your torso and place your hands on the wall, keeping your feet planted. Then, step back with your sore ankle and press your foot toward the floor. Stop if the stretch becomes painful.
Once your doctor pronounces you fully recovered and you're able to work out again, start slowly and build to the intensity at which you were exercising before the injury. Exercising too hard could lead to a recurring injury and slow your progress. Initially, try workouts that do not place strain on your ankles, such as water aerobics or cycling. As your ankle becomes stronger, increase your workout intensity and add higher impact types of exercise back into your routine.
- Columbia Student Health Services: Achilles Tendon Injury
- The Stretching Institute: Initial Treatment for Achilles Tendonitis
- "The Practical Guide to Athletic Training"; Ted Eaves; 2009