Whether you’re a committed runner or prefer to take life at a more leisurely pace, the pain of Achilles tendinitis can definitely throw a wrench into your plans.
Although often classified as a sports injury, Achilles tendinitis can happen to just about anyone. The key to effective treatment is determining the underlying causes of the problem and addressing them in a way that helps you recover and avoid similar trouble in the future.
What are the Symptoms of Achilles Tendinitis?
The most common sign of Achilles tendinitis is an aching sensation along the back of the heel or just above it.
This pain tends to occur most often after activity, and it’s likely to feel worse after any sort of prolonged activities – especially running. Another circumstance that can really get the back of your leg hurting is climbing up stairs, hills, or other inclines, as these all engage the painful area more. Even standing on your tiptoes can be more painful.
What’s Going On?
The Achilles tendon attaches to the back of your heel bone and connects to your calf muscles. It is a very large and strong tendon, but that does not make it invincible.
When overstretched or overstrained, the Achilles tendon can develop tiny tears and become inflamed, causing the types of pain and discomfort mentioned above. In severe cases, the Achilles tendon can even become partially or fully ruptured (which causes much more severe pain).
Inflammation of the Achilles tendon tends to occur most either at the point the tendon attaches to the heel, or a short distance above it.
A number of factors can contribute to the development of Achilles tendinitis. Some of the more common include:
- Overuse. Putting your Achilles tendons through too much stress can increase your risk of injury. So can putting them through extensive periods of repetitive stress without giving your body enough time in between to rest and recover.
- Structural abnormalities. Having flat feet or tight calf muscles can result in excess stress on your Achilles tendons.
- Excess weight. Carrying around more weight increases the stress that your tendons must carry as well.
- Improper footwear. Running shoes that do not provide proper support can increase your chances of Achilles tendinitis.
- Age. The older you are, the less your Achilles tendons may be able to withstand heavy forces.
Treating Achilles Tendinitis
We will typically be able to diagnose Achilles tendinitis easily during a standard exam. We may ask you about your activities and when pain tends to be at its worst. In some cases, we might order an imaging test such as an X-ray or ultrasound to get a clearer look at the situation and rule out any other types of problems.
Once we have a clear diagnosis, we can recommend a treatment plan to aid in your recovery. Parts of a treatment plan might include:
- Rest (it will almost always include this one)
- Anti-inflammatory pain-relieving medications
- Specific stretches and exercises that can help condition your Achilles tendon, calf muscles, and other tissues connected to the injured area
- The use or custom orthotics to shift excess weight and pressure away from the injury
In cases of severe tears, or if conservative treatments are not aiding in recovery, surgery might then be considered. However, this is a rare occurrence.
Get Back to What You Love Doing
Whether you run marathons or walk your dog, Achilles tendinitis is something that should not be hindering your day.
If you have been experiencing consistent heel pain, do not wait any longer to seek the treatment you need. This will only increase the chances of your situation becoming worse and lasting longer!
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