During the past few weeks, I have treated several truck drivers complaining of heel pain. Heel pain is a fairly common occurrence in professional truck drivers.
Although there are several causes of heel pain, for the purpose of this article, I will be concentrating on one specific condition called Achilles tendinitis.
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 important for locomotion and is used in many activities such as walking, running and jumping.
Due to the high-tensile forces that it must endure, the Achilles tendon is very strong and rigid. In fact, it is one of the strongest tendons in the human body.
Achilles tendinitis 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 tendinitis, which include using improper technique when getting in and out of the truck and jumping off the back of the trailer. In addition, operating the accelerator for many hours may cause micro-trauma and irritation to the tendon over time.
There are several risk factors that may increase the chances of developing this type of tendinitis. 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. As you can see, professional truck drivers are at a higher risk of developing this type of tendinitis due to their job demands.
The most common symptom of Achilles tendinitis 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. Often, the affected tendon will be significantly larger than the other.
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 tendinitis is usually 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.
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.
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.