Q: I'm 54 years old and every year I play in a basketball league. I stared early this year to get in shape, but after I'd played for an hour, the cord in the back of my ankle got sore and tender. What should I do?
-- B.M., Cape Cod, Mass.
A: It's great that you've stuck to playing a sport, especially basketball, every year. The exercise is good for you, and I suspect the competition and camaraderie are great for your emotional well-being.
But as with any sport that you only play a few months out of the year, it's very important to work up to it. Even an hour can be too much on the first day.
It sounds like you've developed a condition called Achilles tendinitis, or inflammation of the cord (tendon) that runs up the back of your leg from the ankle into the calf.
This inflammation is caused by too much stretching of the tendon. You were fortunate you didn't rupture the tendon. Treatment of a ruptured tendon requires either surgery or placement in a cast for several months.
Treatment for tendinitis starts by applying ice for about 20 minutes three times a day for a week or so, and applying ice after playing sports. Also use anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
To prevent over-stretching in the future, stretch the tendon by leaning against a wall with your heels raised and slowly and carefully allowing your heels to sink the floor. Wearing a heel lift, especially during exercise also helps prevent excess stretching.
Update on shoes: Whenever we play sports, we look for the right shoes. But when we buy our normal shoes or those simply for walking, we think more of fashion than function. Maybe that's why over 40 million people in North America have problems with their feet.
The America Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons suggests these guidelines in buying shoes: The heels should be wide and about one-half inch high; the outside of the sole should be slightly rounded; leave a half inch space between your long toe and the front of the shoe; and make sure the arch support just fits your foot.
Dr. Allen Douma welcomes questions from readers. Although he cannot respond to each one individually, he will answer those of general interest in his column. Write to Dr. Douma in care of Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, Ill. 60611. His e-mail address is DRFamily@aol.com.
This column is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or take the place of consultation with a doctor or other health-care provider.