What is Achilles Tendinitis?
The Achilles tendon is a strong fibrous band that extends from the heel to the calf muscle. Achilles tendonitis, or inflammation of the Achilles tendon, is a condition that commonly affects athletic individuals, especially runners and cyclists. Repetitious movement and improper preparation before exercise can result in pain and inflammation.
What are the Symptoms of Achilles Tendinitis?
The chief symptom of Achilles tendinitis is pain. The lower calf muscle and the backside of the heel can become very tender. A healthcare professional can make a determination through a physical exam and an analysis of the location.
Achilles Tendinitis Causes
Achilles Tendinitis occurs most often because of repetitive stress on the tendon because an individual is pushing themselves too hard when playing sports or exercising instead of pacing themselves. It causes pain, swelling and inflammation. Repetitive stress on the tendon can happen due to other factors as well, some of which have nothing to do with athletic endeavours.
Those factors include:
- Having flat feet (also referred to as fallen arches)
- Bone spurs (when there has been extra bone growth in the spot where the Achilles tendon is attached to the heel)
- Tightened calf muscles (from not stretching)
- Wearing high heels (this style of shoe in particular can put stress on the Achilles tendon)
- Medications an individual might be taking (like glucocorticoids or some antibiotics)
How is Achilles Tendinitis Treated?
NSAIDs are often prescribed to reduce pain and inflammation.
Treatments also typically include:
- Application of ice
- Stretching exercises after pain has subsided
- Professional physical therapy
- Night braces for gentle stretching and light immobilization
- Walking boots for active immobilization
- Ultrasound therapy
- Heel lifts
- Shoes with more flexible soles
- Electrical stimulation for chronic Achilles tendinitis
Other remedies might be prescribed based on the cause of Achilles tendinitis. In any case, patients are advised to abstain from running, cycling, jumping, and walking long distances or any other activities that could cause irritation.
They should also gradually return to their regular routine to avoid further injury and/or aggravation. Severe injury requiring surgery, a solid cast and/or the use of crutches can result with inadequate treatment and proper care.
Achilles Tendinitis Prevention
No method of prevention is foolproof, but there are a number of ways to reduce one’s risk of Achilles Tendinitis.
Here are some of them:
- Gradually increase your activity levels so your Achilles tendon can adjust to the additional pressure over time.
- Try to avoid any activities that put undue stress on the tendon, but warm up properly if doing them and stop the activity if you start feeling pain in your heel.
- Make sure your shoes have the right cushioning for the heels and firm arch support to reduce stress on the tendon. If the cushioning is not built in, there are inserts that can correct this. The right cushioning is critical, especially for your workout shoes. If a pair of shoes is old and worn out, replace them.
- Ensure that calf muscles stay looser by stretching them daily. Tightened calf muscles can put a great deal of strain on the Achilles tendon.
- Alternate types of workout from one day to another and find exercises that strengthen the calf muscles. Doing this as well as gradually increasing activity levels will ensure your Achilles tendon is able to handle extra pressure.