Not unlike its namesake Greek hero, your Achilles tendons are strong—in fact, the strongest, thickest, and toughest of the roughly 4,000 tendons in the human body. Even so, they are far from invincible. With repetitive strain and overuse, the tendon fibers can stretch, swell, or even degenerate, leading to chronic stiffness and pain.
What are the Symptoms of Achilles Tendinitis?
Achilles tendinitis symptoms tend to get progressively worse over time without treatment. You may first notice a dull ache that appears just above the back of the heel after periods of activity, but in time the pain will increase, and the amount of activity required to trigger it will shrink.
Other symptoms may include:
- More intense pain, especially the day following exercise
- Stiffness, particularly in the morning
- Tenderness or warmth in the back of the leg
- Thickness or swelling in the tendon
What Causes Achilles tendinitis?
Achilles tendinitis is an overuse injury. You won’t get it from a single traumatic moment (although the tendon can rupture that way), but instead from lots of small impacts over time. Often it happens when you try to push yourself to do too much, too soon, especially if you haven’t been very active in the past or are switching to a new sports or training regimen.
Biomechanics also play a critical role in many cases. Our feet weren’t originally designed to handle all the hard, flat surfaces of the modern world, so without proper support or cushioning the tendon can wear down faster.
Achilles tendinitis tends to be most common among those in their late 30s through early 60s. Tendons weaken and lose flexibility with age, so they become more susceptible to injury with time.
How We Treat Achilles Tendinitis
There are multiple options and strategies to defeat Achilles tendinitis. Dr. Victoria Melhuish will provide a complete examination, perform any necessary tests or imaging scans, and then help you develop a treatment plan that makes the best sense for your desired goals and lifestyle. The great news is that surgery is almost never necessary, and symptoms typically resolve using only simple remedies performed mostly at home.
Custom orthotics are one of the most effective ways to not only treat an existing case of tendinitis but also prevent future problems. That’s because orthotics, which we both fit and manufacture right on site, are crafted to the exact specifications of your unique feet to provide just the right cushioning, elevation, and support you need to handle the stresses of modern living.
Other techniques that may be employed for both treatment and prevention of Achilles tendinitis include:
- Resting for a few days. Avoid running, impact sports, or other vigorous activities for a brief period to allow your swollen tendon to repair itself.
- Stretch and exercise your feet and calves. This keeps them strong, flexible, and limber, which relieves existing pain and makes the tendon more resistant to subsequent stresses.
- If pain is severe, temporary immobilization using a walking boot may be recommended to keep the foot and ankle in place during the healing process.
- Icing, over-the-counter painkillers, or cortisone shots can be used in moderation to fight a tough flare up of pain or swelling.
- Make sure you have good shoes for your activities.
- Ease into new activities and workouts, and increase your intensity levels gradually over a period of several weeks rather than all at once.
- Try to cross-train in a mix of different activities to avoid overloading yourself with activities that strain the Achilles tendon. Walking, swimming, weightlifting, or riding a bicycle are good alternatives.
A weakened, painful tendon not only gets in the way of happy, active living but also leaves you more vulnerable to a more serious tendon rupture, which may require surgery for effective treatment. That’s why, if resting for a few days isn’t enough to relieve your symptoms, you should make an appointment with Sierra Foot & Ankle for a personalized treatment plan. Our offices are conveniently located in Carson City and Gardnerville, NV. Drop us a line using our online contact form, or give us a call at (775) 783-8037.