Achilles tendinitis is an injury of the Achilles tendon secondary to overuse.
The condition often occurs in runners who drastically increase the duration or intensity of their runs.
It’s also prevalent among middle-aged individuals who only play sports like basketball and tennis on the weekends.
Many cases of Achilles tendinitis respond to simple home care remedies.
Severe cases however can result to tendon ruptures or tears and may require surgery.
Pain that signals Achilles tendinitis often manifests as a mild ache above the heel or in the back of the leg.
The pain is especially noticeable after engaging in sports or running.
Episodes of severe pain can occur after prolonged sprinting, stair climbing, or running.
Stiffness and tenderness may also be experienced especially in the mornings but will often improve with mild activity.
Primarily, Achilles tendinitis can be attributed to intense and repetitive strain on the Achilles tendon.
The Achilles tendon’s structure can also weaken with age, making it more prone to injury.
Several factors can increase one’s risk of developing Achilles tendinitis.
Some of the factors include:
- Age – the condition can become more prevalent with age.
- Sex – Achilles tendinitis is more common among men than in women.
- Training choices – running while wearing worn out footwear can increase one’s risk of developing Achilles tendinitis. Running on hilly terrains can also predispose one to injuries of the Achilles tendon.
- Physical problems – an arch that is naturally flat puts more stress and strain on the Achilles tendon. Tight calf muscles and obesity has also been known to increase tendon strain.
- Medications – certain kinds of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones has been associated with Achilles tendinitis.
- Medical conditions – people with high blood pressure or psoriasis have a higher risk of developing the condition.
Prior to setting an appointment with the doctor, it is important to have a ready answer for some of the questions the doctor is likely to ask:
- Did the pain begin gradually or suddenly?
- Do symptoms become worse after certain activities or at certain times of the day?
- What type of footwear is usually worn when running or exercising?
- What supplements and medications are taken regularly?
- Is the pain minimized with rest?
- Where does it hurt exactly?
- What is the typical exercise routine?
- What has been done to alleviate the pain?
While self-care measures would suffice for several cases of Achilles tendinitis, other treatment options might be suggested for symptoms that are persistent or severe.
Avoiding exercise for several days is considered ideal so irritating the Achilles tendon further is avoided. In some cases, using crutches and wearing a walking boot might be advised.
To reduce the swelling and alleviate the pain, applying an ice pack to the affected area for 15 minutes is often suggested.
Compressive elastic bandages or wraps has been known to help keep movement of the affected tendon to a minimum and reduce the swelling.
Raising the affected foot above the heart level can help minimize swelling.
When over-the-counter pain medications (naproxen or ibuprofen) won’t provide the needed relief, stronger medications might be prescribed.
The following treatment options might be recommended by a physical therapist:
Orthotic devices – a wedge or a shoe insert designed to slightly elevate the heel may be suggested to serve as cushion to help minimize the stress and strain on the Achilles tendon.
Exercises – Strengthening and stretching exercises may also be taught to strengthen the Achilles tendon as well as its supporting structures and promote healing.
When there is rupture on the tendon and several months of noninvasive treatments have proved futile, surgery to repair the Achilles tendon might be the best recourse.