Out of the roughly 4,000 tendons you have in your body, the two Achilles tendons—located behind the heels—are the thickest and the strongest.
Why? Because they have to withstand incredible forces all day long. They’re the critical link that connects the powerful calf muscles to the heels and feet, which enables you to walk, run, jump, or stand on your toes.
Unfortunately, this uncommon strength does not make them impervious—far from it, in fact. When the tendons become overstressed over an extended period of time, the tendon fibers can begin to stretch, swell, or tear. The result? A bad case of Achilles tendinitis.
What Are the Symptoms of Achilles Tendinitis?
With this condition, you can expect pain, and often stiffness and tenderness located along the back of the leg, just above the heel. Most likely, the first noticeable symptoms will be mild aches. Overtime and without care, however, those mild aches may get progressively more painful, especially after strenuous exercise or stair climbing.
It’s also important to acknowledge that the symptoms of Achilles tendinitis may be very difficult to distinguish from other heel pain conditions, including bursitis, certain heel spurs, or even pinched nerves. So if heel pain is restricting your activities, it’s vital that you get a proper diagnosis so that the appropriate steps can be taken.
What Causes Achilles Tendinitis?
Achilles tendinitis is an overuse injury. Like any other tissue in your body, your Achilles tendons are only designed to handle a certain amount of force. When they are consistently overloaded and aren’t given enough rest and recovery time, the tendons start to stretch, swell, and even break down.
Some underlying factors that can trigger or facilitate tendinitis include:
- Age. Tendons tend to lose strength and elasticity with age, although regular activity and staying in shape can help mitigate the risk.
- Foot structure. Flat arches or other biomechanical issues may force the Achilles tendons to shoulder an inordinate share of the force loads.
- Obesity. The heavier you are, the more weight and force your feet and tendons have to bear every time you use them.
- Footwear. Worn out shoes that don’t provide proper cushioning or arch support can “outsource” that shock absorption role to the tendons, with disastrous results.
- Overtraining. Participating in an active sport, like running or basketball, may cause you to develop tendinitis if you aren’t giving your feet enough rest between games and practice sessions.
- Insufficient athletic preparation. Trying to do too much, too soon (such as running a 5K right after being sedentary most of the winter, or not properly stretching before a competition) dramatically increases your risk of injury.
How Is Tendinitis Treated?
As with any sports injury, it’s important to have an expert diagnose your condition and develop an effective treatment plan for you. While mild cases of Achilles tendinitis often can be treated at home, untreated (or poorly treated) tendinitis can weaken the tendon and increase your risk of a catastrophic rupture.
Every case is unique, and our treatment recommendations may vary depending on factors such as what caused the tendinitis, your activity goals, and your age. Options include:
- RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation). For the mildest cases of Achilles tendinitis, simple home care strategies may be all you need.
- Physical therapy. We’ll show you how to perform stretches and exercises that will promote healthy, injury-resistant tendons.
- On the mild end, an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication may be more than enough to help you handle the pain. More serious cases might need stronger medications, or perhaps a cortisone injection.
- If your Achilles tendinitis is linked with faulty foot structure or biomechanics, an appropriate set of prefabricated or custom orthotics will almost certainly be a part of the solution.
- Regenerative therapies. At Carmel Foot Specialists, we offer a variety of advanced conservative therapies for soft tissue injuries, including PRP, laser, acoustic wave, and AmnioFix injections. These are great options for dealing with even the most stubborn cases of tendinitis non-surgically.
Surgical repair of the tendon is a last resort option if everything else has failed, but it is very rarely necessary.
If aching tendons are holding you back from the active lifestyle you wish to enjoy, don’t let the problem become chronic! Instead, call Carmel Foot Specialists for effective treatment options today.
- Myers Park: (704) 334-8682
- South Charlotte: (704) 542-8253