Professional and amateur cyclists alike are often struck by pain in the Achilles tendons. These tendons are located at the rear of the ankle, connecting the muscle of the calf with the heel. Achilles tendonitis occurs when inflammation or tiny tears affect the tendons. This painful condition can be enough to keep you off the bike for weeks while you recover. Although athletes in many sports are prone to Achilles tendonitis, cyclists seem to be some of the hardest hit.
Preventing Achilles Tendonitis
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right? The best way to deal with Achilles tendonitis is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Two significant causes of Achilles tendonitis are overuse and improper bike fit. If you are experiencing pain in the lower leg and behind the heel, you should first examine your pedal placement. For best results, the ball of your foot should sit overtop the pedal axle. Some cyclists prefer a slightly different placement for personal comfort. If you feel discomfort or tightening in the Achilles you should try to move your cleat a bit to the rear of your shoe and then readjust your saddle height, if necessary.
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Do your shoes offer proper support? Consider purchasing insoles to help align your foot properly in the shoe. A common problem, called overpronation, occurs when the knees press slightly inwards on the downstroke on your pedal. This can produce stress on your heel and Achilles area. Also, check to make sure that your cleats aren’t loose or damaged. Improper positioning of your feet can add significant stress to your lower legs.
Saddle height could also be a factor causing Achilles stress and pain. If your saddle is too high, you will naturally point your toes at the bottom of your pedal stroke. Over time, this produces a tremendous amount of movement and stress in the ankle and can cause significant pain. In a similar but reverse manner, a saddle that is too low forces the heel back on each down stroke, which puts pressure directly on the Achilles.
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A final cause to consider is overuse. If you have recently upped your cycling game, consider that overuse may play a role in your pain, this is especially true if you have been riding uphill a significant amount. Remember that your training should involve gradual shifts in intensity, not extreme transitions.
Treatment for Achilles Tendonitis
Remember that although Achilles tendonitis is relatively common in cyclists, your pain could be from a greater injury. Visit your physician to determine the cause and proper treatment of your pain.
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As soon as you notice pain or discomfort, take a few days off from training to allow the inflammation to settle and for any microtears to begin to heal. For mild pain and swelling, take ibuprofen and use an ice pack. Consider getting a massage to target the muscles of the lower leg and the Achilles area, only after healing has begun and the pain has subsided. You can also gently massage the area at home.
To help prevent future Achilles injuries, you need to increase the flexibility in your lower leg and build strength. Begin by doing some gentle calf raises. Then progress to squats and lunges. These exercises will serve to both increase flexibility and condition your lower legs. Remember never to stretch to the point of discomfort or pain. Stretching exercises are meant to be gentle.
If Achilles tendonitis continues to trouble you, consider a few sessions with a personal trainer or even a physical therapist. Also, implement a routine of mild stretching both before and after your ride.
No matter how careful a cyclist you are, minor injuries can occur. These nuisance injuries are enough to keep you off your bike and interrupt your training. But more severe injuries, like bicycle crash injuries, can alter your life. Sadly, insurance companies usually offer a settlement that may not even be enough to cover your medical bills. If you have been injured in a bicycle crash, contact Kass & Moses to learn more about your options. Our experienced team of lawyers are also cyclists- so we know just how important it is for you to get back on your bike. We will help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.