How to Treat Injured Tendons

Tendons are the "bridges" that connect muscles to bones all over your body, including in your feet and ankles. When they are injured, you definitely know, as this foot injury can be particularly painful. Below you'll find additional information about this condition and some suggestions for how to treat injured tendons.

Tendinitis is the inflammation, stiffness, and swelling that result when a tendon is strained or torn. You can experience this problem in tendons anywhere in the foot, including those within the arch along the bottom of the foot. Tendinitis is, in fact, often related to arch problems. But one of the most common -- and painful -- spots for tendinitis is in the Achilles tendon (actually a group of tendons), which connects the muscles and bones of your lower leg to those of your foot. (It is named for the Greek hero whose only vulnerable spot was the back of his heel.)

Achilles tendinitis is an injury often associated with dancers, runners, and high-impact aerobic devotees -- all people who place repeated and great stress on the Achilles tendon, pulling it taut every time they land flat and hard on their feet. Other sufferers include women who are accustomed to wearing high heels and then suddenly switch to flats. In this case, the tendon is simply not used to being stretched in this new way and becomes sore and swollen.

As with sprain injuries, tendinitis can range from mild to serious. If the tendon is only overstretched, it should heal within a day or two with a treatment of ice packs, elevation, and rest -- similar to the healing routine for ankle sprains. After the first 24 hours, alternate ice packs with heat to help reduce the inflammation that often accompanies tendinitis.

When you must be on your feet, put inserts inside your shoes or in some other way cushion the affected area -- under the arch if the inflamed tendons are in that area or under the heel for Achilles tendinitis. Wear shoes with a moderate heel rather than flats, to lessen the pull on sore tendons. Aspirin or another anti-inflammatory drug can relieve some of the discomfort of mild tendinitis during the few days it will take you to recover.

Cases of tendinitis in which the tendon is torn partially or completely away from the bone can be quite serious and require a doctor's care, physical therapy, and sometimes even surgery. If surgery is not required, your doctor may still want to give you medication that will reduce the swelling (which is inevitable with an injury to the Achilles tendon) and put your foot in a cast to immobilize the area surrounding the injured tendon. Whatever treatment is recommended for serious Achilles tendinitis, you're likely to spend several months recovering from the problem, during which time your ability to get around will be limited.

The best course of "treatment" for this disabling and all-too-common injury is prevention. And it's simple: Stretch.

You must prepare your Achilles tendon and other foot tendons for any new activity in which they will be pulled to their full length. If you're a runner or a dancer, definitely do leg and foot stretches before and after your exercise routine. Also wear athletic shoes with a raised heel and with plenty of cushioning and support in the heel, arch, and toe areas. Walkers should take the same precautions; mild tendinitis can develop in the feet of walkers who don't warm up and/or those who wear very flat walking shoes without heel and arch cushioning.

But even if you don't follow any "official" fitness program, stretching exercises are a good idea and are very easy to do. They make your muscles stronger and more limber -- and, most importantly, less prone to everyday injury.

The arch is an area of the foot that can be injured through overuse or strain as well. Continue to the next section to learn how to care for an injured arch.

To learn more about treating and avoiding problems with your feet, visit:

  • Everyday Foot Problems: Discover causes of some of the most commonly encountered foot problems, as well as how to treat or avoid them.
  • How to Care for Your Feet: Learn how to keep your feet -- and yourself -- healthy and happy with these tips on caring for your feet, including selecting the right shoes.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.