Achilles tendinitis is a common condition that occurs when the tendon is inflamed. Inflammation occurs when the tendon is under too much stress, forcing it to tighten and overwork. This leads to pain, swelling or irritation along the back of the leg near the heel. Over time, the inflammation can produce a covering of scar tissue that is much less flexible than the tendon itself. If this occurs and the Achilles continues to be stressed, there is a greater chance for tear or rupture. Once you begin experiencing Achilles pain, there are steps you can take to prevent Achilles tendinitis from worsening or recurring.
Achilles tendinitis is characterized by sharp or dull pain along the back of the tendon, often close to the heel. Other common symptoms include:
- Severe pain after exercising
- Swelling that gets worse throughout the day with activity
- Pain and stiffness along the Achilles tendon in the morning
Achilles Tendinitis is often caused by repetitive stress to the tendon, rather than a specific injury. The most common cause of this stress is pushing our bodies too much, too soon, but other factors can also contribute, including:
- Tight calf muscles: Tight calf muscles paired with aggressive exercise can put extra stress on the Achilles tendon.
- Bone spur: Extra bone growth can cause pain when rubbing against the tendon.
- Dramatic increase in intensity or amount of exercise activity: Not giving your body a chance to adjust to added intensity or distance can make Achilles tendinitis more likely to develop.
Your physician should make the proper diagnosis. Your doctor will examine your foot and ankle, looking for swelling along the Achilles tendon, pain, the point of maximum tenderness, thickening or enlargement of the Achilles tendon, and bony spurs at the lower part of the tendon. He or she may also order imaging tests such as X-rays or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to confirm the diagnosis.
To prevent Achilles tendinitis, you must strengthen and stretch the muscles in your feet and calves. This can be achieved with toe raises, wearing motion-control shoes or orthotics, easing into any running program, and a variety of other stretches.
If you already experience Achilles pain, you should stop running, take ibuprofen or aspirin, and ice the area appropriately. To prevent Achilles tendinitis from worsening or recurring, start with alternative exercises to running such as: pool running, swimming and bicycling. To gradually begin running again, transition to skipping rope and jumping jacks.
To determine if you suffer from Achilles tendinitis and receive the proper treatment, contact Metroplex Foot & Ankle for a consultation.