After years of hiking without many problems, I began experiencing pain near my ankle and heel. My doctor diagnosed “Achilles tendonitis” and prescribed medicine which did reduce pain and swelling. I’m still worried I’ll not be able to hike again. What natural remedies keep this at bay?”
-J.S. Boulder, CO
Answer: Ouch, I’ve had tendonitis myself from over-typing and exercising so I hear ya’. This condition is usually an overuse injury and causes pain or swelling in the wrists, knee caps, elbows or Achilles tendons. Actually it can occur in any tendon and there are hundreds! Unfortunately, tendons don’t have a rich blood supply and that hinders adequate delivery of oxygen and nutrients. Simply put, tendons are slow to heal.
The most important thing you can do to improve tendonitis pain is to rest the area, that’s hard to do when it’s your foot! But tendons don’t recover if you keep overusing them. The next consideration (and this one is also free) is to ice the area to reduce inflammation but icing doesn’t help much after the first few days. Supplements or medications do help. Most of you will opt for medications like ibuprofen or naproxen (these are NSAIDs and are contraindicated in people with bleeding ulcers among other conditions). My personal favorite anti-inflammatory supplements include astaxanthin, saffron, and curcumin because they have other tremendous health benefits. Here are some more options that can help:
Boswellia: A strong anti-inflammatory compound that works as effectively as NSAIDs. Sometimes called “Indian Frankincense” this herb can be combined with any of the three supplements I mentioned above.
MSM- Methylsulfonylmethane: MSM supports healthy connective tissues like tendons and ligaments. It’s used for arthritis too. This one is a must for prevention.
White willow (salix alba): This is also know to increase fertility; willow bark may ease aches and pains. Aspirin comes from white willow, and you can trust the herb to reduce pain and inflammation, however it is a mild blood thinner.
Ginger: Great for inflammation and pain, especially around the joints. You can buy fresh root at any grocery store and grate into your meals, or make tea. Ginger increases blood circulation (be careful with other blood thinners).
Ruta (ruta graveolens): This homeopathic remedy is used for tendon pain, especially in the Achilles, feet, hips, wrists, and areas near other joints. Boiron makes this in pellet form.
Arnica (arnica montana): Also a homeopathic, arnica has been used for centuries to treat general pain. It can be taken orally or applied topically. The topical cream Traumeel by Heel contains arnica and several other healing compounds targeted specifically to reduce pain and inflammation from strains and sprains. I’m never without Traumeel!
Tendonitis can sometimes be the result of arthritis, gout, Reiter syndrome or Ankylosing spondylitis, Lyme disease or other conditions. It’s harder to treat so be sure to see your doctor for a correct diagnosis and to ask if these supplements are right for you.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.