What is Achilles Tendonitis?
The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the human body, capable of withstanding forces of 1,000 pounds or more. More specifically, it is the band of tissue that connects the calf muscles at the back of the lower leg to your heel bone. It also happens to be the most frequently ruptured tendon in the body.
Achilles tendonitis is an overuse injury of the Achilles tendon. It is the most common cause of heel pain in the back of the ankle, usually the result of a sports injury. Both professional athletes and “weekend warriors” may suffer from Achilles tendonitis, which 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 occasional quick-paced sports, such as tennis or basketball.
Achilles Tendonitis Symptoms
Achilles tendonitis symptoms typically begin as a mild ache in the back of the leg or above the heel after running or other sports activity. More severe pain may occur after prolonged running, stair climbing or sprinting. You may also experience a tenderness or stiffness after taking your first steps in the morning, pain going up and down the stairs, or pain with prolonged walking and/or standing.
Achilles Tendonitis Causes
Achilles tendonitis is caused by repetitive or intense strain on the Achilles tendon. This tendon is used when you walk, run, jump or push up on your toes. The structure of the Achilles tendon weakens with age, which can make it more susceptible to injury in slightly older patients.
A number of factors may increase your risk of Achilles tendonitis:
- A naturally flat arch in your foot can put more strain on the Achilles tendon.
- Obesity and tight calf muscles also can increase tendon strain.
- Running in old, worn-out shoes can increase your risk of Achilles tendonitis.
- Running on hilly terrain can also predispose you to an Achilles injury.
- People who have psoriasis or high blood pressure are at higher risk of developing Achilles tendonitis.
Achilles Tendonitis Treatment
There are many treatments that are available for Achilles Tendonitis. Home remedies include reducing your physical activity, and gently stretching and strengthening your calf muscles. You can also try icing the area and elevating your foot if you feel pain after exercising. Anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen may help, but only temporarily.
Tendonitis usually goes away after a few days, following rest and proper home treatment . Recovery takes a lot longer if you continue to put pressure on the tendon or don’t change your exercise habits to prevent another injury or rupture.
More invasive treatments include shockwave therapy**, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections* and surgery, if the tendon is ruptured.
Preventing Achilles Tendonitis
It’s best to prevent Achilles tendonitis before it happens. You can do this in a number of ways:
- Stretch your calf muscles at the beginning of each day and before and after workouts to improve your agility and make your Achilles tendon less prone to injury.
- Choose shoes with proper cushioning and arch support. Try to make certain that the heel is slightly elevated to take tension off your Achilles tendon. If you’ve worn a pair of shoes for a long time, consider replacing them or using arch supports.
- Ease into new exercise routines, gradually intensifying your physical activity.
- Combine high- and low-impact exercises, such as basketball with swimming, to reduce constant stress on your tendons.