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Typically an overuse injury, Achilles tendinitis affects the connective tissue between the calf and the heel 1. When you walk, run or otherwise use your leg to push your body upward, the Achilles tendon is engaged. Using the tendon frequently and with high intensity often results in tendinitis -- a swollen Achilles tendon that makes it difficult and sometimes painful to continue high-impact activities 1. The elliptical machine is sometimes a catalyst for tendinitis, but it's also used as an effective part of rehabilitation.
The elliptical machine can sometimes contribute to overuse injuries. If you use the elliptical machine on a daily basis or you've sustained an unrelated ankle injury, but continue to exercise without rest, the elliptical machine could contribute to the development of Achilles tendinitis 1. If you don't give the injury time to heal, tears may develop in the fibers of the middle or lower portion of in the Achilles tendon. In addition, the damaged fibers may calcify and bone spurs can develop. Always use the elliptical machine properly and heed your doctor's advice when healing from ankle injuries to prevent chronic problems.
Treatment and Rehab
Since the elliptical is a low-impact exercise machine, it's often used in the rehabilitation of Achilles tendon injuries. Unlike the impact your ankle sustains when your foot hits the pavement while running, using the elliptical machine is a less jarring, lower-impact exercise. When recovering from overuse injuries, such as Achilles tendinitis, modified exercise on the elliptical helps you stay active and keeps your tendons flexible 1.
If you've been diagnosed with Achilles tendinitis, the treatment typically includes modified activities that reduce the impact on the tendon to give it time to heal 1. Other low impact exercise methods include swimming and gentle stretching. Your doctor may also prescribe the RICE treatment -- rest, ice, compression and elevation until Achilles swelling subsides.
Achilles tendinitis can take as long as 2 to 3 months to heal 12. Switching from long distance running to the elliptical machine until the pain and swelling subside gives your Achilles tendon time to heal properly. Engaging in high-impact exercise, such as running, before your Achilles tendon heals could result in chronic problems and lingering pain.
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