Achilles tendonitis – An Introduction
Achilles tendonitis is a condition where the Achilles tendon, which is a big tendon that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone, becomes inflamed and painful. It is a common injury that often happens to people who do activities that require a lot of running or jumping, like sports or exercise. It is important to know the symptoms of Achilles tendonitis because early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent further damage and speed up the healing process.
This article will explain the symptoms of Achilles tendonitis, its causes, how it can be diagnosed and treated, and offer tips on how to prevent it from happening. By the end of the article, readers will have a better understanding of Achilles tendonitis and what they can do to manage the condition.
Anatomy of the Achilles Tendon
The Achilles tendon is a big tendon at the back of the ankle that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. It helps you to move your foot up and down and push off the ground when you walk, run or jump.
Achilles tendonitis happens when your tendon gets swollen and painful. It can happen when you do a lot of running or jumping, wear shoes that don’t fit well, walk or run on uneven surfaces, or increase your exercise intensity too quickly. It can also happen as you get older or if you have certain health conditions.
Factors that can make you more likely to get Achilles tendonitis include being older, being male, being overweight, having tight calf muscles or flat feet, and having certain medical conditions.
Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis
The symptoms of Achilles tendonitis are important to recognize so that you can get the proper treatment you need. The most common symptom is pain and stiffness in the Achilles tendon. The pain can be mild or severe, and it can feel like a dull ache or a sharp pain.
Another symptom is swelling in the affected area. This can make your ankle look bigger than usual or feel warm to the touch. Tenderness to the touch is another symptom, which means that your Achilles tendon might feel sore if you press on it.
You might also experience a limited range of motion in your ankle. This means that you might not be able to move your ankle as much as you used to. This can make it difficult to walk or run.
Sometimes, people with Achilles tendonitis hear a popping or snapping sensation in their heel. This can happen when the tendon gets inflamed or irritated. This symptom can be alarming, but it doesn’t always mean that the tendon is torn.
Difficulty walking or running is another common symptom of Achilles tendonitis. This is because the pain and stiffness in your Achilles tendon can make it hard to put weight on your foot or move it in certain ways.
If you have any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor or a physical therapist as soon as possible, or book a Virtual Consultation with a Gait Happens Clinician. This can help diagnose your condition and create a treatment plan that will work best for you.
Diagnosing Achilles Tendonitis
This usually starts with a physical examination, but also remotely over Zoom. Your clinician will ask you about your symptoms and medical history, and then examine you for swelling, tenderness, and range of motion.
Imaging tests, such as ultrasound or MRI, may be also used to confirm the diagnosis and assess the severity of the injury. However, these tests often do not correlate with symptoms, and/or recovery so it is best to have a physical examination.
To make sure that your symptoms are not caused by another condition, your doctor or physical therapist might also consider a differential diagnosis. This means that they will consider other conditions that can cause similar symptoms, such as plantar fasciitis, a stress fracture, or a ruptured Achilles tendon. By ruling out other conditions, your doctor or physical therapist can make sure that you get the right diagnosis and treatment for your condition.
Treatment of Achilles Tendonitis
The treatment of Achilles tendonitis depends on the severity of your condition. If you have mild to moderate symptoms, your doctor or physical therapist may recommend non-surgical treatments.
Tendons need LOAD. Rest will not heal an Achilles tendon injury. It may acutely feel better but unless the tendon is loaded, healing is affected. It is MOVEMENT and load that creates a mechanical response in the tissue that is converted into biochemical reactions that improve the integrity of the tendons.
The clinicians at Gait Happens are well versed in treating these conditions and can devise a specific treatment plan for you that includes safely and effectively loading the tendon. You can book a Virtual Consult with us here.
Physical therapy can be very effective in treating Achilles tendonitis. Your physical therapist will develop a personalized treatment plan that may include stretching and strengthening exercises to improve your ankle flexibility and strength. They may also use manual therapy techniques, such as massage or joint mobilization, to help reduce pain and improve movement.
The use of orthotics, such as shoe inserts or heel cups, can also help relieve symptoms of Achilles tendonitis in very severe cases. Extracorporeal shock wave therapy is another treatment option for Achilles tendonitis. This treatment uses high-energy shock waves to stimulate healing in the affected area. It is a non-invasive treatment that is often used in conjunction with other therapies, such as physical therapy.
In extremely severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair or remove damaged tissue in the Achilles tendon. This is typically only recommended if non-surgical treatments have not been effective or if the injury is very severe.
Preventing Achilles Tendonitis
To avoid pain and discomfort in your ankle, it’s best to prevent Achilles tendonitis. One of the best ways to prevent this condition is to properly stretch and warm up before exercising. This can help prepare your body for physical activity and reduce the risk of injury. The other key factor is making sure you have STRONG FEET and CALVES. The Achilles tendon takes on MANY times our body weight when we are walking and running and must be trained to handle these loads.
It’s also important to gradually increase the intensity and duration of your exercise routine. This can help prevent overuse injuries and give your body time to adapt to new activities. Make sure your shoes fit well and provide enough space for your feet and ankles. Wearing proper footwear is also crucial in preventing Achilles tendonitis
Lastly, try to avoid repetitive stress on your Achilles tendon. This means taking breaks from activities that put a lot of stress on your ankle, such as running or jumping. You may have to run on flat ground instead of hilly routes initially. If you do participate in these activities, make sure to take breaks and stretch your ankle muscles regularly to help prevent injury. Isometric exercises can also be incredibly helpful, such as these…. 45 second holds, rest 60 sec, repeat 5x.
1. What are the causes of Achilles Tendonitis?
Achilles tendonitis is often caused by overuse or repetitive strain on the Achilles tendon. Sudden movements or a direct injury to the tendon.
2. How long does Achilles Tendonitis take to heal?
The healing time for Achilles tendonitis can vary depending on the severity of the injury and the individual’s health. Mild cases may heal within a few weeks, while more severe cases may take several months to even years to heal.
3. What are the risk factors for developing Achilles Tendonitis?
Some risk factors for developing Achilles tendonitis include participating in sports that involve jumping or running, having tight calf muscles, and wearing shoes that don’t fit properly or provide enough support. A history of taking quinolone antibiotics, and/or training in cold weather
4. Is Achilles Tendonitis more common in athletes?
Yes, Achilles tendonitis is more common in athletes who participate in sports that involve repetitive movements or sudden changes in direction. However, anyone can develop Achilles tendonitis.
5. Can I prevent Achilles Tendonitis?
Yes, you can prevent Achilles tendonitis by stretching and warming up properly before physical activity, gradually increasing the intensity and duration of exercise, wearing proper footwear, and avoiding repetitive stress on the Achilles tendon.