Achilles Tendinitis

Your body contains thousands of tendons from your head to your toes. But there’s a particular tendon running down the back of the lower leg that you use to stand, walk, run, and jump known as the Achilles tendon. It is the largest and strongest tendon in your body, making it critical mobility and structural tissue.

Like every other tissue, the Achilles can be injured, inflamed, or irritated, a common condition known as Achilles tendinitis, which can cause severe pain and impair your ability to use your legs.

What is Achilles Tendinitis?

Achilles tendinitis occurs when there’s a significant irritation or inflammation in the Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon is strong enough to withstand great stresses from jumping and running. However, when overused or damaged, it can lead to tendinitis. The condition mainly affects athletes but can happen to anyone.

Common causes include a sudden increase in activity or exercise such as running, overdoing the same movement such as repeatedly jumping, avoiding warming up calf muscles before workouts, exercising in unfavorable shoes, having arthritis on the back of the heel bone, and wearing high heels frequently or over a prolonged period.

As the largest tendon in your body, it is one of the most used tendons, making it prone to injuries. The injury can be mild, moderate, or severe, creating a burning pain or stiffness in that part of the leg. Severe pain is a sign that the tendon is partially or completely torn.

Achilles tendinitis occurs in two types, which affect different parts of the tendon:

  • Noninsertional Achilles tendinitis: occurs when fibers in the middle of the tendon break down, swell, and get thick.

Insertional Achilles tendinitis: affects the lower portion of the heel, where your tendon inserts or goes into your heel bone.

person walking with sports tape supproting their achilles tendon

What are the Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis?

The symptoms of Achilles tendinitis can vary depending on the severity of inflammation or injury to the tissue. However, the following are common symptoms of the condition:

  • Pain – aching, stiffness, soreness, or tenderness – within the tendon. It can occur anywhere along the tendon’s path, from the tendon’s attachment on the heel bone to the region below your calf muscle. The pain can worsen with increased activity.
  • Intense pain or tenderness when sides of the tendons are squeezed
  • Enlargement of the tendon or development of nodules in the area where the tissue is damaged when the condition progresses to degeneration.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Achilles Tendonitis

Before administering treatment, a physician must first ascertain that you’re suffering from Achilles tendinitis through a systematic diagnostic procedure. The physician will examine your foot and ankle and evaluate the tendon’s range of motion and condition. In some cases, the physician will use an x-ray or other imaging modalities to assess your Achilles tendon’s condition further. It is advisable to perform a proper diagnosis to not mistake the disorder for a sprained ankle.

The treatment of Achilles tendonitis can vary depending on the degree of damage to the tendon or how long you’ve had the condition. In its early stages, a doctor may recommend any of the following options:

Ice

Apply a bag of ice over a thin towel to the affected area for about 20 minutes of each waking hour to reduce swelling resulting from inflammation. Avoid putting ice directly against the skin.

Immobilization

It involves using a removable walking boot or cast to reduce forces through the Achilles tendon to promote healing.

Oral medications

Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen may help reduce the pain and inflammation in the early stages of Achilles tendonitis.

Physical therapy

You can use a wide range of physical therapies such as massage, stretching exercises, mobilization, gait and running re-education, and ultrasound therapy.

Night splints

Useful in maintaining a stretch in the Achilles tendon during sleep.

When is Surgery Needed?

If the nonsurgical interventions above fail to restore the tendon to its normal condition, your physician may recommend surgery. The younger and more physically active you are, the more likely surgery will be the best option. The surgeon will make a small incision in the back of your ankle and sew the Achilles back together sometimes; they will need to sew other tendons in to make things even stronger. 80 to 90% of the procedures are usually successful and should be performed within the four weeks of the injury.

Why Choose Expert Foot Care from Total Foot and Ankle?

At Total Footok and Ankle, we have a team of certified and immensely experienced foot and ankle surgeons. We handle everything from simple to complex foot and ankle issues through our personalized approach to care that prioritizes safety and effectiveness. In addition, we enjoy a rich history of happy patients of all ages who have overcome their Achilles tendon disorder through our treatments.

To schedule an appointment, call (580) 237-3338

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