Everything You Need to Know about Achilles Tendinitis
Achilles tendinitis can become a debilitating orthopedic condition if left untreated. This article will walk you through the key information about how it develops and the ways you can recover from it.
Causes of Achilles Tendinitis
The Achilles tendon is a large tendon that stretches from the calf muscle to the heel bone at the back of the ankle. It allows you to flex and point your foot. After strenuous exercise or frequent physical activity, this tendon can get painfully inflamed or even torn in extreme cases—leading to Achilles tendinitis.
Achilles tendinitis often emerges as a result of rigorous physical activity while on your feet, often involving running, jumping, or playing sports. The exercise strains the tendon, causing it to become inflamed and sore.
Often, Achilles tendinitis develops because of repetitive stress from regular exercise. But it can also develop suddenly if you play sports that involve frequent pivoting or speeding up. Sudden stopping and starting movements or changing direction can put extra strain on the Achilles tendon, which can lead to Achilles tendinitis. Sports like tennis, basketball, and soccer can be especially damaging.
If you’ve recently started working out or increasing the intensity of your workout, you will be more likely to develop Achilles tendinitis. Working out without a sufficient warm-up also increases your chances.
Ill-fitting or old shoes can be contributing factors if you spend a lot of time on your feet. As you age, your risk of developing Achilles tendinitis also increases.
Symptoms of Achilles Tendinitis
Achilles tendinitis often brings on several key symptoms, including:
- Pain or discomfort at the back of the heel or ankle
- Tight, sore calf muscles
- Swelling around the heel or ankle
- Tender to touch
- Skin around the heel or calf feels warm
- Difficulty moving, standing, or flexing your foot
- Limited range of motion in your ankle
- Ankle or foot feels stiff
As the most common symptom, you will likely experience pain along the back of the calf and heel if you develop Achilles tendinitis. If the Achilles tendon tears, you may instead feel a sudden, more intense pain or hear a popping sound.
Diagnosing Achilles Tendinitis
If you suspect you may have Achilles tendinitis, there are several possible diagnostic options:
- Physical exam to locate the source and intensity of pain
- Exercises to demonstrate the flexibility, range of motion, and connectivity of your tendon
- An X-ray to examine the foot, ankle, and leg bones
- An MRI to examine tendon damage or tears
- An ultrasound to detect tendon damage and inflammation
Treatments for Achilles Tendinitis
Many cases of Achilles tendinitis are mild and recover on their own if you take the proper precautions. If you suffer an Achilles tendon injury, you should immediately follow the RICE method for the best chance of recovery:
- Rest and limit physical activity to stay off your feet
- Ice the affected tendon in 15-20-minute intervals to relieve swelling
- Compress the tendon by wrapping it with tape
- Elevate the tendon above your heart
After the initial period immediately following an Achilles tendon injury, here are some of the top suggested ways to treat Achilles tendinitis:
- Do physical therapy exercises to stretch and strengthen your calf muscle
- Wear a brace to keep your Achilles tendon stable
- Take anti-inflammatory pain relievers
- Wear shoes or heel inserts that provide support and relieve tension in your Achilles tendon
- Try low-impact workouts that take pressure off your Achilles tendon
In more extreme cases—especially if the Achilles tendon has been torn or ruptured—you may require surgery. Depending on the severity and location of your rupture, you may need to undergo an open repair, which means a surgeon will reattach the torn tendon through an incision above the heel bone.
Treating Achilles Tendinitis at Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants
If you notice some of the symptoms of Achilles tendinitis, be sure to book an appointment right away. A mild case can easily progress to a torn or ruptured Achilles tendon if left untreated.
At Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants, we know how debilitating a strained or ruptured Achilles tendon can be. We take your health seriously and take an innovative approach to treatment to give you a better quality of life. Our skilled orthopedic specialists and surgeons are prepared to meet your needs and get you back to the workouts you love.
Contact us today to get your Achilles tendinitis under control.