Achilles Tendinitis

Whether you’re a committed runner or prefer to take life at a more leisurely pace, the pain of Achilles tendinitis can 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.

Woman on a trail

What are the Symptoms of Achilles Tendinitis?

Achilles tendinitis is typically a mild ache at the back of your leg or above the heel that follows after running or some other activity. You may experience more severe pain after running, stair climbing, or sprinting.

The following are common symptoms of Achilles tendinitis:

  • Pain in your heel or behind the calf when you touch it or move it
  • Pain or swelling in the affected area when you run or walk, or after exercising
  • Discomfort or swelling at the back of your heels
  • You have a limited range of motion when you flex your foot
  • Warmth around the heel and along the tendon
  • Difficulty standing on your toes

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.

Many times, Achilles tendinitis results from overusing the tendon during exercise or from ongoing wear and tear as you grow older. Middle-aged and older adults are more prone to Achilles tendinitis when they also have arthritis.

Achilles tendinitis can be caused by repetitive straining of the tendon, or as a result of aging. It can also result from arthritis in older people and middle-aged adults.

The following are other common causes of Achilles tendinitis:

  • Exercising without heating up first
  • Repeated strains on the calf muscles
  • Playing sports such as tennis that require quick stops or changes of direction
  • Running too fast, too intensely, or uphill too often
  • Increased physical activity suddenly without your body adapting
  • Wearing old, or not fitting shoes
  • Wearing high heels for long periods of wear or daily
group of people walking

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:

Remember the RICE method:

  • REST – Do not put any pressure on your tendon until you can walk normally. If the tendon is not put under any additional strain, it will heal faster. If you have to move while your tendon is being restrained, your doctor might suggest you use crutches. Give your body a chance to heal itself first. 
  • ICE – Place ice in a plastic bag and wrap it in cloth. The bag can be held on the tendon for 20 minutes. After that, take it off and let the tendon heat up again. Ice often reduces inflammation and swelling.
  • COMPRESSION – This will help prevent further swelling. You should not wrap or tie anything around your tendon as this can restrict blood flow.
  • Elevation – Lift your foot higher than your chest. This way your foot is higher than the level of your heart so blood returns to your heart and helps keep the swelling down. It is easy to do this by lying down on your back and placing your foot on a pillow, or any other elevated surface.

If the RICE method doesn’t provide relief, you should consider: 

  • Anti-inflammatory pain-relieving medications
  • Specific stretches and exercises can help condition your Achilles tendon, calf muscles, and other tissues connected to the injured area.
  • The use of 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.

walking down the street

Get Back to What You Love Doing

You should expect a lengthy recovery if you injure your Achilles tendon. However, our experienced team of experts will help you get back on your feet as quickly as possible. We’ll help you get back to doing the things you love.

To schedule an appointment with one of our doctors at Comprehensive Foot Centers in Metro Kansas City, please give us a call at (816) 455-1155 today.