Achilles tendonitis is thought to be an overuse injury of the achilles tendon that commonly occurs among athletes or active individuals due to overtraining or training under incorrect conditions. However, the reasons why the condition develops are not fully understood and it can affect athletes and non-athletes. Insertional achilles tendonitis refers to a special case of the condition in which the injury occurs close to the heel bone. The key symptoms of the condition are pain and tenderness in the achilles tendon. In some cases, achilles tendonitis may be accompanied by a swollen achilles tendon.Treatment of achilles tendonitis consists mainly of resting the achilles tendon by reducing the level of activity.
The achilles tendon is a band of fibrous tissue that runs from the heel bone to the calf muscles. Another name for the heel bone is the calcaneus and the achilles tendon is also called the calcaneal tendon. The end that connects to the calf muscles connects to both the gastrocnemius and soleus calf muscles. As mentioned above, insertional achilles tendonitis refers to an injury that is focused on the point of connection of the achilles tendon with the heel bone.
What Are The Usual Causes Of Achilles Tendonitis?
The most usual cause of achilles tendonitis is a sudden increase in training intensity of someone who runs for exercise or competitive reasons. You will also see it in middle aged individuals who occasionally play a running sport like tennis or basketball. The infrequent nature of their exertions can serve as a trigger for the onset of tendonitis. This is because the body may be unable to easily adjust from days of inactivity to sudden intense physical activity. The underlying problem is assumed to be an inability of the tendon to adapt to the increase in the strain to which it is being subjected.
Symptoms of achilles tendonitis include aching, pain or swelling over the achilles tendon. The pain usually starts as a mild aching at the back of the patient’s leg (just above the heel) after he or she has completed a run or tennis/basketball game. The severity of the pain is quite variable. It can be a mild ache which eases with exercise or a severe pain which limits walking. Often the pain increases when the victim stands on tiptoe.
The person suffering from the condition may also experience stiffness or tenderness in the achilles tendon area, especially first thing in the morning just after getting up and following a sustained period of inactivity. This stiffness often eases after a few minutes of walking around.
If the pain is severe and its onset is sudden, then the possibility of a torn (ruptured) tendon needs to be considered. This is particularly the case if the pain was first felt during an accident or physical activity. If the tendon ruptures, a popping or snapping sound may be heard at the time when the pain is first felt.
Swollen Achilles Tendon
A swollen achilles tendon is a typical symptom of achilles tendonitis. However, it may also be a sign of degeneration of the tendon. If you experience this symptom, you should visit your doctor to find out the cause of this condition.
Achilles tendonitis can be confirmed based on information about symptoms supplied by the patient as well as a simple examination. Imaging investigations like scans are not usually needed.
Treatment Of Achilles Tendonitis
It is probably better to prevent the tendonitis from occurring in the first place rather than treating it when it has already occurred. You can help to prevent the onset of achilles tendonitis by increasing your activity level gradually. You should also follow a stretching and warm up routine at the beginning of each stint of activity. Choose shoes that have adequate cushioning in the heel area and proper arch support. Avoid using worn out shoes, especially for physically intensive activity. Weight loss can reduce the risk of Achilles tendinopathy by reducing the stress on joints, muscles and tendons.
If you do start to suffer from this type of tendonitis, you should take a break from your physical exercise routine until the symptoms have improved. Rest is one of the main treatment measures for the condition. When you are able to move the injured area without pain, you should keep moving it to prevent stiffness. When you start working out again, follow the guidelines above to reduce the risk of recurrence.
Other treatment measures for Achilles tendonitis include one or more of the following :
Pain relief with paracetamol (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin). Another option is using a cold compress consisting of a bag of frozen peas or ice blocks wrapped in a towel;
If the above measures do not achieve enough success, the patient can be referred for physiotherapy;
If there has been inadequate response to conservative treatments, referral for invasive interventions like steroid injections or even surgery needs to be considered.