Achilles tendinitis is inflammation of the Achilles tendon, the fibrous tissue that connects the heel to the calf muscles. This condition is often caused by irritation of the tendon and typically affects those who play sports. However, older individuals who suffer from arthritis may also be affected. Achilles tendinitis is typically the first stage of an Achilles tendon injury and should be treated right away. Without treatment, the tendon can tear or rupture, which may require surgery.
Causes of Achilles tendinitis
Achilles tendinitis is usually caused by straining the Achilles tendon through intense activity or a sudden increase in exercise.
Individuals who play basketball often develop Achilles tendinitis as a result of pivoting, jumping, and running. These repetitive movements put pressure on the tendon and can gradually wear it down over time.
Increasing the intensity of your workouts may also lead to the development of Achilles tendinitis. This is commonly seen in long distance runners who do quite a bit of uphill running. Similarly, if you start exercising more frequently you may also develop the condition due to overuse of the tendon. Not stretching properly before exercise can also make the tendon more prone to injury.
Achilles tendinitis is also common in individuals whose feet have a flattened arch, as this places more stress on the tendon. The condition can also be triggered by arthritis, as joint pain can cause one to compensate by putting more pressure on the Achilles tendon.
Achilles tendinitis symptoms
Symptoms of Achilles tendinitis include:
- Creaking sound when touching or moving the tendon.
- Dull pain when walking or standing on the toes.
- Stiffness around the tendon in the morning that gradually decreases throughout the day.
- Swelling and inflammation around the ankle.
- Tenderness around tendon.
Treatment of Achilles tendinitis
Achilles tendinitis can typically be treated at home by following the R.I.C.E. treatment method:
- Rest: Rest the tendon by avoiding activities that irritate the tendon or increase swelling. However, this does not mean you should be completely inactive for long periods of time, as this can cause stiffness in your joints. It’s still important to stretch in order to maintain strength and flexibility and partake in activities that don’t put direct pressure on the tendon, such as bicycling.
- Ice: Apply ice to the affected area for 20-minutes at a time, every couple hours, as needed, to reduce swelling and pain.
- Compression: Use compression bandages to help reduce swelling.
- Elevation: Elevate your ankle above the level of your heart to help reduce swelling. It is particularly important to do this at night while you sleep. Simply place a pillow or two under your ankle to keep it elevated. Once the tendon has healed, be sure to gradually return to more strenuous activities. If flattened arches contributed to the injury, wear shoes with appropriate support or inserts to prevent the condition from progressing or recurring.
If these non-surgical treatments have not been able to provide relief of symptoms after several months, surgery may be performed to remove inflamed tissue. However, this is not usually recommended unless all other options have been exhausted. Consult your doctor for more information about surgical treatment options.