Heel pain is a common occurrence in professional truck drivers. Although there are several causes of heel pain, I will be concentrating on one specific condition called Achilles tendonitis.
In order to understand this injury, you must first understand the anatomy of the area. The Achilles tendon is a fibrous band of tissue that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. This tendon is very important for locomotion and is used in many activities such as walking, running and jumping.
Achilles tendonitis is simply inflammation of the Achilles tendon. In most cases, this injury occurs when the tendon is strained from excessive force or overuse. For truck drivers there are a few common causes of Achilles tendonitis, which include using improper technique when getting in and out of their trucks and jumping off the back of their trailers. In addition, operating the accelerator or clutch for many consecutive hours may cause trauma and irritation to the tendon over time.
There are several risk factors that may increase the chances of developing this type of tendonitis. First of all, poor flexibility of the calf muscles and flat arches will decrease the ability of the Achilles tendon to absorb shock. To add to this, not warming up before physical activity and wearing inappropriate footwear will also increase the likelihood of straining the tendon.
The most common symptom of Achilles tendonitis is pain at the back of the heel bone that develops gradually and worsens over time. Some people experience a dull ache in the back of the leg above the heel after participating in physical activity. On visual inspection, you may notice swelling or a lump on the Achilles tendon.
It is important to address this injury at its onset in order to avoid developing a more serious condition.
Most of the time, a health care professional will be able to assess and diagnose this condition after taking a detailed history of the injury and performing a thorough physical examination. Advanced diagnostic testing such as ultrasounds and MRIs may be necessary to identify and confirm the diagnosis.
The treatment of Achilles tendonitis is often very simple. The first line of treatment consists of rest and ice to reduce the inflammation. In addition, your doctor may recommend anti-inflammatory medications to further reduce inflammation and decrease pain. Gentle stretches may also promote healing of the tendon.
However, it is important to perform the stretches in a slow and controlled manner in order to avoid re-injury. Orthotic devices such as heel lifts may also be utilized to relieve the tension on the tendon during the healing process. If the injury does not respond to these conservative modes of treatment, your doctor may explore other possibilities such as corticosteroid injections or even surgery.
The goal of surgery is to repair damaged tissue and restore function of the foot.
As I always say, prevention is the best treatment. It is important for drivers to use proper footwear which provides adequate cushioning for the heel and support for the arch.
Also, it is good practice to replace footwear when it shows signs of excessive wear. Next, performing a regular stretching routine, which includes a few calf muscle stretches will improve flexibility and reduce the stress on the tendon.
Lastly, warming up before performing any physical activity will loosen up the muscles and tendons of the legs. I recommend that drivers walk around their truck five to 10 times as a good warm-up. By following these simple tips, you will greatly reduce your chances of developing Achilles tendonitis.