What Is Achilles Tendinitis?

Achilles tendinitis occurs when the Achilles tendon, the tendon that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone, is overused and becomes irritated and inflamed. This is a common condition, especially among runners and middle-aged people who only play sports on the weekends.

There are two types. Non-insertional Achilles tendinitis is when fibers in the middle portion of the tendon develop small tears. Active young adults tend to be affected the most. Insertional Achilles tendinitis involves the lower portion of the tendon where it attaches to the heel bone. People of all ages can be affected, including those not physically active.

Most cases can be treated with at-home care, but serious cases may require surgical repair. In this article, we’ll cover everything else you need to know about Achilles tendinitis, including treatment options.

Achilles Tendinitis Symptoms

Common symptoms of Achilles tendinitis include:

  • a pop sound and sudden sharp pain, a sign of a rupture,
  • difficulty flexing the foot,
  • pain in the heel or down the back of the leg,
  • pain in the tendon the day after exercising,
  • stiffness and soreness in the Achilles tendon upon waking up,
  • swelling and pain that gets worse as you’re active,
  • and thickening of the Achilles tendon.

Achilles Tendinitis Causes and Risk Factors

Achilles tendinitis is typically not related to a specific injury. Rather, it’s from overusing the Achilles tendon. This often happens during exercise or over time as the structure weakens with age.

You can be at a higher risk if you:

  • begin exercising more frequently,
  • exercising without warming up first,
  • increase the intensity of your workouts,
  • try a new sport,
  • wear inappropriate or worn shoes,
  • or work out on an uneven surface.

How to Prevent Achilles Tendinitis

While preventing Achilles tendinitis may not be possible, here are ways you can lower your risk.

  1. Stretch your calf muscles at the beginning of each day. Not only will this maintain your flexibility, but it’ll make your Achilles tendon less prone to injury.
  2. Warm up your muscles by stretching before you exercise. If you notice pain while you’re working out, stop and rest.
  3. Gradually increase your physical activity, especially when starting a new exercise regimen.
  4. Reduce constant stress on your tendons by alternating low-impact activities, like cycling and swimming, with high-impact activities, like running and jumping.
  5. Wear shoes that have adequate cushioning for your heel and firm arch support. Replace worn-out shoes, and for shoes that are in good condition but aren’t supportive, try using insoles or custom orthotics.

How to Treat Achilles Tendinitis

From home remedies to corrective surgery, there are many treatment options available.

Home Remedies

Fortunately, in some cases, home treatments could be an adequate solution to ease the pain and swelling. You can take anti-inflammatory medication for pain relief, follow the RICE method, gently stretch your calf muscles, and wear shoes that have a heel to take tension off your tendon.

The RICE method is a simple yet effective self-care technique. Here are the steps to follow.

  • Rest – For 1 to 2 days, don’t put pressure or weight on your tendon until you can walk without pain. Your doctor may suggest using crutches if needed.
  • Ice – Put a bag of ice wrapped in a cloth against your tendon. Hold it there for up to 20 minutes, and then remove the bag to let the tendon warm up again. This process helps reduce swelling or inflammation.
  • Compression – To help prevent additional swelling, wrap athletic tape or a bandage around your tendon. Be mindful not to tie anything too lightly, as it could limit blood flow.
  • Elevation – Elevate your foot, so it’s above the level of your heart. This keeps the swelling down. It’s as easy as lying down on the couch and propping your leg up with pillows.

Corrective Surgery

If home remedies don’t work, surgery may be considered. A podiatrist will decide which procedure is best for you. Surgery may involve:

  • gastrocnemius recession, lengthening of the calf muscles.
  • removing bone spurs, which are growths of extra bone.
  • removing damaged tendon tissue.
  • repairing the tendon.

See a Podiatrist Today!

For help managing the pain in your Achilles tendon, visit The Foot & Ankle Center! Our expert podiatrists specialize in a wide range of foot and ankle ailments. We even offer same-day appointments to help keep your mind at ease and get you back to living a full and healthy life.

To get started, give us a call at 314-487-9300 or request an appointment online today!