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Article Series--Lower Leg Injuries and Exercise, Part 1

Posted Aug 24 2008 7:30pm

Dealing with injuries is as big a part of exercising as, well---exercising! The ideal solution is to prevent injuries . While that's not always possible, this article series will help you recognize some of the warning signs (and treatments) of lower leg exercise injuries.

Treatment of any soft tissue injury during the first 24-72 hours is important to offset any further injury and inflammation. The general rule of thumb is to use the R.I.C.E.R. principle (REST, ICE, COMPRESSION, ELEVATION, REFERRAL FOR MEDICAL ASSISTANCE).

Have you ever had achilles tendinitis? If not, then be grateful because you don't want this pain! Achilles tendinitis is a leading injury among exercisers. And, this injury can last for months or years if not treated.

Achilles tendinitis is an inflammation of the achilles tendon (the largest tendon in the body). The pain is felt just above the heel. The achilles tendon connects the two major calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) to the heel bone (calcaneus) and it stabilizes your heel. Check out the anatomy of the heel area:

Common causes of achilles tendinitis are over-training (or a sudden huge increase in training load), cheap footwear, weak or tight calf muscles, a weak achilles tendon or an unstable ankle joint. Try to prevent this injury by increasing flexibility/strength in your calf muscles and stabilizing your ankle joint. A good flexibility exercise is the leaning calf stretch. And, there are several calf strengthening exercises such as calf raises and step-ups. Stabilize your ankle with one-legged exercises such as standing/stabilizing/hopping on one leg or step ups with stabilization.

In part 2 of this series, I will cover shin splints (ouch!).

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