Achilles tendinitis is an overuse injury of the Achilles tendon, the band of tissue that connects calf muscles at the back of the lower leg to your heel bone. Achilles tendinitis most commonly occurs in runners who have suddenly increased the intensity or duration of their runs. It’s also common in middle-aged people who play sports, such as tennis or basketball, only on the weekends. Most cases of Achilles tendinitis can be treated with relatively simple, at-home care under your doctor’s supervision. Self-care strategies are usually necessary to prevent recurring episodes. More-serious cases of Achilles tendinitis can lead to tendon tears (ruptures) that may require surgical repair.
Tendinitis typically develops after abrupt changes in activity or training level, use of poorly fit or worn footwear, or training on uneven or dense running surfaces. Overuse prior to sufficient training is generally the cause. This is due to forces 8-10 times the body weight acting on the tendon during physical activity. Achilles injuries range from inflammation to a breakdown in the tendon. Pain is generally felt low on the back of the heel due to the low vascularity and susceptibility for inflammation. Pain higher on the Achilles is generally more muscular pain and less tendonitis. If swollen spots or knots are found along the tendon, or if the tendon feels jagged, cease activity and seek professional medical care.
Symptoms include pain in the heel and along the tendon when walking or running. The area may feel painful and stiff in the morning. The tendon may be painful to touch or move. The area may be swollen and warm. You may have trouble standing up on one toe.
The doctor will perform a physical exam. The doctor will look for tenderness along the tendon and pain in the area of the tendon when you stand on your toes. X-rays can help diagnose bone problems. An MRI scan may be done if your doctor is thinking about surgery or is worried about the tear in the Achilles tendon.
The recommended treatment for Achilles tendinitis consists of icing, gentle stretching, and modifying or limiting activity. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naprosyn, can reduce pain and swelling. Physical therapy and the use of an orthosis (heel lift) can also be helpful. For chronic cases where tendinosis is evident and other methods of treatment have failed, surgery may be recommended to remove and repair the damaged tissue.
Surgery is considered the last resort and is often performed by an orthopedic surgeon. It is only recommended if all other treatment options have failed after at least six months. In this situation, badly damaged portions of the tendon may be removed. If the tendon has ruptured, surgery is necessary to re-attach the tendon. Rehabilitation, including stretching and strength exercises, is started soon after the surgery. In most cases, normal activities can be resumed after about 10 weeks. Return to competitive sport for some people may be delayed for about three to six months.
By properly training the body, an athlete can build the strength of their tendons and muscles. Following a workout and dieting plan, the body will be able to build muscle and strengthen most effectively. Additionally, doing the following can prevent tendinitis. Wearing appropriate shoes will give your foot the support it needs for proper movements of the foot and ankle. Improper movements will put additional stress on your body. Stretching before an athletic activity, Stretching primes the body for a taxing activity. Additionally, this will get your blood flowing and reduce the risk of pulling a muscle. Ask your doctor about orthotics, Custom orthotics can help get your foot into proper alignment. If the foot does not execute proper mechanics, the body will adjust which will cause pain and increase the chances of injury.