The Achilles tendon connects the muscles in your lower leg to your heel bone and helps you bend your ankle. Achilles tendonitis occurs when the Achilles tendon is inflamed and can cause shooting pains in the back of your heel and bottom of your foot, although it does not always cause pain. Read on to learn more about the causes and symptoms of Achilles tendonitis, how to treat it and what to do if you’re suffering from it.
What is Achilles tendonitis?
The term tendinitis refers to inflammation or irritation within a tendon, which are tough bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones. Although tendinitis can occur at any point along a tendon, it usually refers to pain in the elbow area, including regions such as bursitis (inflammation within a bursa sac), subluxation (partial dislocation) or impingement syndrome. Although numerous causes may lead to tendinitis, many cases develop due to overuse; for example, individuals who are prone to repeatedly lifting heavy objects or working with their arms above their heads for extended periods may be susceptible.
What are the common causes of this injury?
Acute tendinopathy (tendinitis) most commonly affects athletes who are involved in sports that involve running, jumping, or repetitive motions with sudden loading on a tendon. These activities put great amounts of stress on your leg muscles, especially your calf muscles. Overuse injury can also occur in these circumstances because your tendons do not have time to heal between workouts or competitive events. The resulting microscopic tears in your Achilles tendon can cause pain when you move or even at rest. Most cases clear up within two to three months, but if you notice signs and symptoms lasting longer than that, consult with a medical professional right away. You might need steroid injections or physical therapy to get back on track!
What are the common symptoms associated with this condition?
The main symptom is pain in your heel that typically gets worse when you walk or run. You might also experience stiffness or inflammation in your calf. This can be accompanied by swelling, warmth, and redness around your ankle. The condition may cause numbness or tingling if it affects a nerve in your lower leg.
What are ways to prevent this condition?
One of my favorite exercises to strengthen my ankles is simply running in place on a soft surface, or marching in place. No, you’re not going to be able to run at your full speed while doing so, but that’s not what I’m after when I recommend these ankle strengthening exercises. What I do want is for you to focus on strengthening your tendons by doing simple movements that keep your body slightly unstable. And by moving around a bit more than usual while running in place or marching, it’s also forcing your core muscles (abdominals and lower back) to engage as well—which helps with overall strength training.
What should you do if you start experiencing pain?
In most cases, you can treat acute tendonitis with rest, icing, compression, and elevation (RICE). Make sure to take off your shoes or boots if you spend a lot of time on your feet. It’s also important to avoid doing activities that aggravate your symptoms. Try to reduce your activity level while resting, then slowly increase activity as pain subsides. If symptoms don’t improve within 2 weeks after an injury or start to get worse again, visit a doctor for treatment recommendations.
How can you treat this condition at home?
Treatment for acute tendonitis may include rest, icing, compression with an elastic bandage or splint. If a patient is in a lot of pain during activity, anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen (Advil) may help reduce pain and swelling. Over-the-counter orthotics can also relieve symptoms by correcting alignment issues that contribute to stress on affected tendons. The primary treatment goal for chronic tendonitis is to strengthen supporting muscles around affected tendons. Cross training activities that don’t stress affected areas should be substituted for aggravating activities until symptoms subside. A physical therapist can guide you through exercises to increase strength and flexibility in surrounding muscles.
How do you make an appointment with a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon for treatment?
Make an appointment with a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon to treat your achilles tendon. They will often be able to figure out what is causing your pain in your achilles tendon. If there is not any physical damage present, then you may be more comfortable treating it at home using RICE method. Read more about making an appointment with a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon here. There are many different ways that you can make an appointment depending on where you live, so we have created an overview based on where you live below
Understanding treatment options
If you have been diagnosed with achilles tendonitis, you may be feeling confused or lost. Luckily, there are resources available to help. Learning more about your injury, diagnosis, prognosis, therapy, and recovery will give you an idea of what is ahead for you. Before starting treatment you should do as much research as possible so that you can make an informed decision about your next steps. This guide has several resources for doing just that!
Since tendon injuries are often misunderstood, there’s a lot to learn. First, it’s important to understand why your tendon is injured. The place where your muscles attach to tendons is called a muscle-tendon junction. They create tiny tears in their own tissue as they contract and relax. Over time, these tears add up as inflammation or swelling increases around them. To relieve tension at that point, you must massage away fluid buildup (called edema) at your injury site(s). However, be cautious not to put more pressure on an inflamed area; always make sure you have pain-free range of motion before exercising again after injury.