Achilles tendinitis is a common cause of heel pain – typically in the back of the heel or just above it.
Although it is often referred to as a sports injury, you do not need to be an athlete to suffer from Achilles tendinitis. Many individuals who spend a lot of time on their feet or simply have factors that place extra stress on their Achilles tendon have a higher risk of this condition, too.
Any suspected case of Achilles tendinitis – or persistent heel pain of any type – should always be evaluated and addressed sooner rather than later. Schedule an appointment at Advanced Ankle & Foot for expert care and ways to reduce your risk of future injury!
What is Achilles Tendinitis?
Achilles tendinitis is a type of injury to the Achilles tendon. This is the largest tendon in the body, connecting the calf muscles to the heel bone in the back of the leg.
The Achilles tendon is very strong, but it’s not invincible. Overstraining the Achilles tendon can cause inflammation and – in more severe cases – tears or a full rupture in the tissue.
What are the Symptoms of Achilles Tendinitis?
The troubles caused by Achilles tendinitis are often hard to ignore. Symptoms may include:
- Pain focused on the back of the heel or the area just above it
- An increase of pain or discomfort after activities, especially those involving climbing stairs or moving up inclines
- A feeling of stiffness following long periods of activity (e.g. waking up in the morning)
- Localized swelling
In many cases, Achilles tendinitis will begin as a mild ache in the back of the leg following exercise or other activities. Without proper treatment, however, symptoms tend to become worse over time.
What Causes Achilles Tendinitis?
Achilles tendinitis is most frequently caused by overuse. In other words, the tendon had to endure a sudden increase in intensity or periods of high use that it was not yet properly conditioned for. Starting a new exercise routine or suddenly increasing the intensity of a routine can cause such strain, as can engaging yourself too frequently without giving your body enough opportunity to rest and recover.
But overuse is not the only potential contributing factor. Others can include:
- Having tight calf muscles that can place more consistent stress on the tendon
- Abnormalities in foot structure (such as flat feet or high arches) that can shift excess weight to the tendon
- Wearing shoes that shift excess weight against the tendon or fail to provide proper support
- Having poor technique during exercises and other activities
- The passage of time, as the Achilles tendon will often weaken as we age
Treating Achilles Tendinitis
As we’ve already noted, there is no reason to delay treatment for a suspected case of Achilles tendinitis. Trying to ignore the problem greatly increases the chances of it becoming worse and longer-lasting.
If the pain has just started, it will often respond well to conservative measures. Start with the RICE method:
- REST the foot. Keep weight off it as much as possible.
- ICE the area for 15-20 minutes at a time, making sure to wrap the cold source you’re using in a thin towel to avoid skin damage.
- COMPRESS the area with an elastic bandage or wrap, making sure not to cut off circulation. (Feel free to skip this step if you are not confident in wrapping.)
- ELEVATE the affected foot above heart level whenever sitting or lying down.
The RICE method helps relieve swelling and pain when used within the first 48 hours of an injury. If you aren’t noticing significant improvement after that time or have any other concerns at any time, please give us a call.
We may ask you to come in for a full evaluation, as well as ask you questions about the circumstances surrounding your discomfort. Once we have a full picture of the situation, we will recommend a course of treatment that best suits your needs.
Parts of a treatment plan might include:
- Changes to better-accommodating footwear and/or exercise routines
- The use of splints or braces to limit movement and aid in recovery
- The use of custom orthotics for corrective support against structural abnormalities, shifting excess weight away from the Achilles
- Stretches and exercises to condition the Achille and connecting tissues (such as the calf muscles)
- The use of MLS laser therapy or other regenerative therapies to accelerate recovery
In most cases, measures such as the above are effective at treating Achilles tendinitis. Surgery only rarely ever needs to be considered; only in unique cases where conservative treatments are not or would not be effective.
Get the Heel Pain Care You Need Now
It is never too early to take action against Achilles tendinitis or any other form of persistent heel pain you may have. We can not only help you get back to action as quickly and safely as possible but help you take simple steps to reduce your risk of future troubles.
Schedule an appointment with us by phone or by filling out our online contact form.