People with diabetes are encouraged to exercise to control blood sugar levels, and sometimes starting a new exercise program that the body isn’t used to can cause new problems. This article is intended help anyone with Achilles’ tendon problems including people with diabetes to encourage and support their exercise habit.
If we exercise more than our body can handle, it will tell us by making the area hurt. What happens in Achilles’ tendonitis is that there are tiny tiny amounts of tearing in the tendon. The tendon cells then tell the body to heal it. It does this by two ways, it hurts, which makes you use it less so it can rest. Secondly, it swells, which allows the body to bring in reinforcements to heal the area. This idea applies for pretty much all musculoskeletal injuries and a general rule of thumb is that if it hurts during or immediately after exercise, you’re doing too much and should cut back. Tendon cells, however, need to have some tension to tell the cells which direction to heal, otherwise it will heal in every direction. You don’t want that because it will become a scar inside the tendon, making the tendon weaker and likely to break. If it can heal in the direction its supposed to be in, it will be much stronger. If you have Achilles’ tendonitis, cut back on whatever exercise caused it, and do something else that doesn’t hurt, such as trying cycling, air squats, or upper body exercises.
Next, do this home physical therapy program:
Do this step exercise. Step up using your heels, then down slowly with the injured side. The key is to go down slowly.
3 sets of 15 repetitions
2 times a day (total 6 sets a day)
Everyday for 12 weeks
I can tell you from personal experience that this is not an easy program to complete, and there are days I physically could not complete my sets because I was so sore. As long as you make an attempt everyday you will get better.
If you want more information about this program, look up Alfredson’s protocol. I’ve made a workout spreadsheet to make this easier for you to keep track of. Click here to download the PDF!
Doing the above exercise is usually enough to beat tendonitis. However, if you are quite active during this program such as work or still want to do some light running, then continue reading for one more thing you can do to get better faster.
When our foot takes a step, the arch bends, which therefore bends the Achilles’ tendon. Think of bending a paperclip back and forth until it breaks. If we bend it less each time, it becomes harder to break the paperclip. The idea for wearing an arch support is similar, the arch does not bend all the way, so then our Achilles’ tendon bends less. Orthotics also have a natural heel lift, which means your Achilles’ tendon does not have to stretch as far for each step.
If you decide you want an arch support, I highly recommend trying them in a store and in the shoe you intend to put them in. There are many different brands of inserts each with their own subtle difference. Not all feet are the same, so these pre-made supports may not fit your foot. The brand I favor the most is called Sole Softec. These arch supports are semi-custom, meaning they can be heated in an oven and will mold to the shape of your foot, and thus will provide a better fit for more people. Alternatively you can just wear them right away, and let the heat from your foot slowly shape the arch support. Because it changes shape, the strength is arguably less than its competitors, but it may just be enough to do the job. If you need stronger or better supports, the best thing would be to get custom-made orthotics. Insurance don’t cover those, so they will cost you $200-400 and a visit to a podiatrist’s office.