The Achilles Tendon is the large tendon that connects the lower part of your calf muscle to your heel bone. Tendonitis occurs through overuse and abuse of the tendon, and is especially common in runners who suddenly up their distance, or in middle-aged and older adults who exercise infrequently, but intensely. Achilles tendonitis can be especially painful as each time you take a step, you are faced with pain from one or both of these tendons.The pain can be anything from a mild burn as of a muscle the day after a workout, to feeling like you’ve been stabbed with a hot knife, though most often it presents as a dull ache or stiffness, particularly in the morning. This pain typically lessens with use as the day wears on.
What Causes it?
There are several factors that can cause Achilles tendonitis. The most common cause is overpronation. Overpronation occurs when you walk, particularly when the arch collapses upon weight bearing, adding stress on the Achilles tendon. Other factors that lead to Achilles tendonitis are improper shoe selection, inadequate stretching prior to engaging in athletics, a short Achilles tendon, direct trauma (injury) to the tendon, and heel bone deformity. A lot of these injuries and risk factors can be mitigated substantially with proper footwear, so make sure you’re wearing the right shoes for your activity. There is also the aforementioned stress on the tendon without proper warm-up or preparation. It is especially important that distance runners stretch the tendon before a long run to avoid tendonitis or a much more severe injury such as a tear or rupture. We see lots of patients that come in with tendonitis who have just recently started a new running regimen, but weren’t quite ready for it.
Age also contributes to the risk of tendonitis. The achilles tendon, like most bodily structures, also wears out and breaks down as we age. If you are involved in strenuous activities, be sure to see your foot doctor before regularly to prevent any injuries to your achilles, like taking up distance running, especially if you are already at risk of achilles damage.
Treatment and Prevention of Achilles Tendonitis
While severe Achilles tendonitis should not be left untreated due to the danger that the tendon can become weak and ruptured, mild tendonitis can typically be eliminated with proper exercise and rest habits. The most important thing is to know and recognize your limits, Achilles Tendonitis is aggravated by activities that repeatedly stress the tendon, causing inflammation. In some cases even prolonged periods of standing can cause symptoms. It is a common problem often experienced by athletes, particularly distance runners. Give us a call and let us go over your stretching and exercise routine to make sure you’re adequately preparing your achilles for the activities.
Achilles Tendonitis is a difficult injury to treat in athletes due to their high level of activity and reluctance to stop or slow down their training. Individuals who suffer from Achilles tendonitis often complain that their first steps out of bed in the morning are extremely painful. Another common complaint is pain after steps are taken after long periods of sitting. This pain often lessens with activity.
Athletes, particularly runners, should incorporate a thorough stretching program to properly warm-up the muscles. They should decrease the distance of their walk or run, apply ice after the activity, and avoid any uphill climbs or stair running to rest the tendon if it become inflamed or stressed. Athletes that are hitting middle-age should use an orthotic device, heel cup, or heel cradle for extra support. A heel cup or heel cradle elevates the heel to reduce stress and pressure on the Achilles tendon. The device should be made with lightweight, shock absorbing materials. An orthotic device can be used to control overpronation, support the longitudinal arch, and reduce stress on the Achilles tendon. These devices should be fitted by your foot doctor, and should be chosen to work with the shoes you wear during your activity of choice.
What We Can Do to Help
At the Superior Foot and Ankle Center, you will find a highly trained staff of podiatrists and nurses who are ready to help you with everything from proper stretching to avoid tendon damage and the ever-annoying heel pain, to surgically repairing the damage of something like a rupture. If you have chronic, persistent tendonitis, or just want to learn about more ways to avoid it, give us a call or make an appointment today to join our growing family of extremely satisfied customers.