‘How I overcame my battle with Achilles pain and started my long recovery’

Apr 11, 2019
John suffered chronic Achilles pain. Source: Getty Images

For many years I suffered chronic Achilles pain. Worse, perhaps, were the problems caused by the change of gait one assumes when any part of the walking package is wonky. At different times it led to calf strain, groin strain and plantar fasciitis. Two or three times a year I’d go to the doctor who, dear old friend he was, would delight in giving me anti-inflammatory shots. He always smiled as he delivered them.

Oh, but the relief! The only problem was, and it proved for a while a difficult one to get around, that blessed relief was due to curing the effect rather than the cause.

When tissue inflames, it causes an increase in localised inflammatory mediators including histamine and bradykinin. Part of their purpose is to dilate blood vessels to allow an increase in blood flow to the inflamed tissue. I know this because, in a move from one town to another, it was explained to me by my new doctor.

He described a medical procedure known as prolotherapy. The theory behind it is that because it actually increases inflammation levels, it promotes a potentially better cure and a longer term fix for the problem. He said it could be painful due to necessarily heightened levels of inflammation but from patient feedback it appeared to work effectively in many of those he treated. It required the injection of small amounts of foreign material into the inflamed area, something that caused me a bit of initial concern until I asked him what was used.

His answer made me chuckle. Nothing more than a 10 per cent glucose solution! Still, the warning remained that, should I decide to go ahead, it would be painful. I answered in the positive, with heightened expectation.

I lay face down on the examination table as the doctor applied a pinch test around both Achilles and marked the extent of my pain reaction. Following this, he gave me 17 shots in the right and 13 in the left.

I lived only a block from the surgery, thankfully, because the walk home was a limping affair! I soon discovered that by taking short, flat-footed steps I was able to proceed, albeit in an odd gait. There were mixed reactions from neighbours as I hobbled by, ranging from “Good heavens, what happened to you?” to “What’s wrong, messed your pants?” (His turn came a few months later, but that’s a story for another time.)

The pain level eased away over the following days, but returned a fortnight later when I headed in for the second treatment, this time about 12 shots right and 10 left. The walk home was again difficult. I returned for a third, lesser, treatment two weeks later. By the time that took effect, my Achilles pain had disappeared.

I will be forever thankful to my new doctor because now, almost 12 years on, I’ve never had a recurrence. It worked well for me, but I must add a word of warning. There is no absolute certainty with medical treatment because what works for one person will not necessarily work for another. Your own GP is the person best able to advise.

Have you suffered chronic pain or Achilles pain? How were you treated?

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