Question: I have Achilles Tendinitis and it hurts when I run. I stopped running and have been trying to get the Achilles to heal. But I still want to exercise to stay fit and sane. I like Bikram Yoga. So my question is: can I do yoga without risking further injury to my Achilles tendon?
Aching Achilles in Berkeley.
Answer: As a runner and sports medicine podiatrist, I firmly believe that injured runners heal fastest when they remain as active as possible. This true for Achilles injuries as well.
The key with the Achilles tendon is making sure that the tendon is healing and that no further damage is taking place. Continued damage to the Achilles (such as repeated micro-tears) is what leads to tendinosis. Achilles tendinosis always precedes an Achilles tendon rupture.
In most cases of Achilles injury in a runner, there is a period of severely reduced activity. Sometimes a Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injection may even be necessary to stimulate healing. In the very worst cases, Achilles tendon surgery may even become necessary.
But once the injury is reversed and healing begins, it is important to get back to activity. If you are at the point where your doctor thinks the tendon is on the mend, it may be OK to add some Yoga to your routine.
With a healing Achilles tendon Yoga is mostly OK. However, there are a few Bikram yoga poses that are concerning, and should be avoided such as:
Garudasana (Eagle Pose)
Dandayamana - JanuShirasana (Standing Head To Knee Pose)
Dandayamana - Dhanurasana (Standing Bow Pulling Pose)
Tuladandasana (Balancing Stick Pose)
Tadasana (Tree Pose)
Padangustasana (Toe Stand Pose)
None of these poses are really likely to rupture the Achilles if done flawlessy. The problem is that if you have your Achilles completely taught (while attempting these poses) and then begin to lose your balance, it may be more than the tendon could take.
If you are doing Hatha Yoga, you should simply keep the risky poses mentioned above in mind and then sit out or modify any Hatha poses that your feel would put your Achilles in a precarious situation.
It is a great question! With any running injury the big trick is not just stopping activity, but being creative in identifying the activities you continue to keep the blood flowing, the mind calm and the healing in progress.
Dr. Christopher Segler, DPM is a sports medicine podiatrist and 10-time Ironman triathlon finisher. He is Board Certified, American Board of Podiatrc Medicine. His sports podiatry practice is limited to runners, triathletes and endurance athletes with complex injuries. He specializes in running injuries that don't heal with the conventional "just stop running" approach. His practice is unique in that he offers remote consultations all over the world via Skype. He travels constantly and is available to treat frustrated injured runners in person in both San Francisco, CA and Houston, TX. If you have an injury that isn't getting better, you can call him directly at 415-308-0833 or 713-489-7674.