Out of the thousands of tendons you have in your body, the Achilles tendons—the “heel cords” located just behind the ankles—are the thickest and strongest. Yet they are among the most frequently injured.
Why is that? Consider how much stress and strain they have to endure every day, especially if you’re an active individual, and you’ll begin to see why.
Achilles tendinitis is common among athletes, but fortunately, we can help you with effective conservative treatment options.
What Is Achilles Tendinitis?
Achilles tendinitis is an overuse injury that irritates, inflames, or otherwise damages the Achilles tendon. When the tendon has to endure a large amount of repetitive stress over a long period of time and isn’t given enough time to rest and recover before being stressed again, the tendon fibers themselves can break down.
Without treatment, symptoms tend to get worse over time. At first, you might only feel a dull or mild ache behind the heel, and only after activity. Eventually, however, the pain, tenderness, stiffness, or swelling may be quite intense.
What Causes Achilles Tendinitis?
The following are associated with a greater likelihood of developing Achilles tendinitis:
- Running. A good deal of Achilles tendinitis sufferers are runners—particularly those who have recently increased their pace or mileage by a significant amount.
- Other sports. Any vigorous outdoor activity involving running or jumping can also cause Achilles tendinitis.
- Bad or inappropriate shoes. Shoes that don’t offer enough cushioning or support increase the stress loads on the tendon. This could be because they don’t fit, are worn out, or aren’t appropriate for the sport you’re playing.
- Bad foot structure. Certain foot shapes and biomechanical structures, such as flat feet or tight calves, can also place excess stress on the Achilles tendon.
Although they aren’t “causes” per se, age and gender are also a considerable risk factor. In particular, active middle-aged men are at the highest risk for Achilles tendinitis. This is because tendons tend to lose strength and flexibility with age.
Can I Treat Achilles Tendinitis at Home?
In many mild-to-moderate cases of Achilles tendinitis, home treatments can provide effective relief. When you first start to notice pain, stiffness, or tenderness in your Achilles tendon, take the following steps:
- Take a break from running, sports, or other vigorous activities that stress the tendons. Switch to low-impact exercises.
- Manage the pain and swelling with over-the-counter medications and/or ice packs.
- Prop up your feet when you sit or recline.
- Gently stretch your calves each day.
- Evaluate your footwear and determine whether you need better shoes for your preferred activities.
If the above home care strategies do not produce sufficient results, or you just can’t afford to wait any longer for relief, please make an appointment to come see us.
How Can a Podiatrist Help Me with My Achilles Tendinitis?
We specialize in healing tough, chronic cases of Achilles tendinitis that haven’t responded to home care. Our goal is simple: get you back to your active lifestyle as quickly as we can.
After our evaluation, we may determine you could benefit from additional care options such as:
Surgery to repair the tendon is only needed in rare circumstances where the tendon has been severely damaged and is not responding to other therapies. The vast majority of the time, conservative treatments will ultimately be effective.
Without proper care and treatment, Achilles tendinitis can develop into a much more serious and painful problem. In extreme cases, the tendon could even completely rupture. To avoid such complications and minimize your recovery and rehab time, please call our office today at (620) 241-3313.