What is Achilles tendonitis?
The Achilles tendon is like a sturdy bridge connecting your calf muscles to your heel bone, giving you the power to stand on your tiptoes and participate in activities like running or jumping. However, this vital tendon can get irritated or wear down over time due to repeated actions, resulting in a condition known as Achilles tendonitis. A tricky thing about this tendon is that it doesn’t get much blood flow, making it famous for taking its sweet time to heal.
There are two different variations of this ailment, Insertional Achilles Tendinitis and Noninsertional Achilles Tendinitis, and they differ based on the part of the tendon that is strained. These are different injuries than Achilles Tendon Ruptures, but do have similar symptoms. An Achilles Tendon Rupture occurs with a sudden increase in stress on the tendon, causing a partial tear, or ruptured tendon. Because the symptoms of an Achilles rupture are similar to Tendinitis, you’ll need to have a doctor diagnose Achilles Tendinitis.
What can cause Achilles tendonitis?
Achilles tendonitis can be caused by a variety of factors.
- Overuse or overexertion:Just like any part of the body, the Achilles tendon is designed to handle stress within limits. If it is used excessively, it can cause the tendon to become inflamed, leading to tendonitis. This is particularly true if the increase in activity is sudden and the body doesn’t have time to adapt.
- Tight calf muscles or flat arches:If your calf muscles are tight, they can pull on and strain your Achilles tendon. Likewise, if you have flat arches, your feet may roll inward when you walk or run, a movement known as overpronation, which can put additional stress on the Achilles tendon.
- Poor biomechanics:If you run or walk with improper form, it can put unnecessary stress on your Achilles tendon. This could include anything from landing on the balls of your feet to not using your muscles effectively to absorb shock.
- Aging:As we age, our tendons can lose their flexibility and weaken. This means they can’t handle as much stress, making them more prone to inflammation and injury.
What are the symptoms of Achilles tendonitis, and how is it diagnosed?
Achilles tendonitis typically manifests through the following symptoms:
- Pain and stiffness:You might experience pain along your Achilles tendon, especially in the morning or after periods of rest. This can worsen after physical activities that stress the tendon, like running or jumping.
- Swelling:The area around the tendon may become swollen, sometimes accompanied by heat or redness. It may also feel tender to the touch.
- Decreased range of motion and strength: You might have difficulty flexing your foot or pointing your toes and may experience weakness in the affected leg.
Achilles tendonitis is typically diagnosed through a combination of a physical examination and medical history. Your doctor may ask about the onset and nature of your symptoms, your physical activities, and any history of similar problems.
During a physical examination, they may ask you to perform certain movements to assess the strength and flexibility of your lower leg and foot. In some cases, imaging tests might be needed to confirm the diagnosis or rule out other conditions.
What are the treatment and aftercare options for Achilles tendonitis?
Achilles tendonitis is often treated with exercises that stretch and strengthen the affected area, along with physical therapy. Reducing inflammation is key, so over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil or Aleve can help, as can applying ice to the sore spot. Modifying your footwear or activities can also provide relief, and in severe cases, you might need to wear a special boot for a while.
While most people get better with these steps, some might need further treatment like shockwave therapy or surgery, but healing may take a while with these options.
Tackling the Titan
At Texas Orthopaedic Associates, our team of experts is committed to guiding you through personalized stretching and strengthening regimens and advising you on medication and footwear modifications. Ready to take the first step toward healing? Reach out to us today.