Achilles tendinitis, also known as
Achilles tendonitis, is inflammation of the Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon connects your calf muscles to the back of your heel bone. It allows extension of your foot downward, away from your
body, which lets your heel lift off the ground as you move forward when walking. Every time you take a step you rely on your Achilles tendon.
Over-pronation, injury and overstresses of the tendon are some of the most common causes. Risk factors include tight heel cords, poor foot alignment, and recent changes in activities or shoes. During
a normal gait cycle, the upper and lower leg rotate in unison (i.e. internally during pronation and externally during supination). However, when a person over-pronates, the lower leg is locked into
the foot and therefore continues to rotate internally past the end of the contact phase while the femur begins to rotate externally at the beginning of midstance. The Gastrocnemius muscle is attached
to the upper leg and rotates externally while the Soleus muscle is attached to the lower leg and rotates internally during pronation. The resulting counter rotation of the upper and lower leg causes
a shearing force to occur in the Achilles tendon. This counter rotation twists the tendon at its weakest area, namely the Achilles tendon itself, and causes the inflammation. Since the tendon is
avascular, once inflammation sets in, it tends to be chronic.
Mild ache in the back of the lower leg, especially after running. More acute pain may occur after prolonged activity, Tenderness or stiffness in the morning. In most cases the pain associated with
Achilles tendinitis is more annoying than debilitating, making sufferers regret activity after the fact, but not keeping them from doing it. More severe pain around the Achilles tendon may be a
symptom of a much more serious ruptured tendon.
During the physical exam, your doctor will gently press on the affected area to determine the location of pain, tenderness or swelling. He or she will also evaluate the flexibility, alignment, range
of motion and reflexes of your foot and ankle. Your doctor may order one or more of the following tests to assess your condition, X-rays. While X-rays can't visualize soft tissues such as tendons,
they may help rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms. Ultrasound. This device uses sound waves to visualize soft tissues like tendons. Ultrasound can also produce real-time images
of the Achilles tendon in motion. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Using radio waves and a very strong magnet, MRI machines can produce very detailed images of the Achilles tendon.
See your doctor or sports physiotherapist for further advice. You may be prescribed anti-inflammatory medicine and a rehabilitation programme. Sometimes, the ankle may be put into a walking boot or
cast to immobilise the ankle in the short term. Gentle calf stretching is the first stage of rehabilitation. Don?t stretch to the point of pain. Strengthening the Achilles tendon is the second stage.
Your doctor or sports physiotherapist will be able to advise you on exercises for this. Special exercises called eccentric calf raises, that contract the calf muscle as it is lengthening (during the
lowering part of the movement), are the standard exercise used in the rehabilitation of Achilles tendon injuries. Sometimes a heel raise or orthotics may be useful. As symptoms resolve, resume normal
weight-bearing activities gradually. Avoid running until all tenderness has gone. Swimming or cycling in low gear are good replacement activities.
Surgery is considered the last resort. It is only recommended if all other treatment options have failed after at least six months. In this situation, badly damaged portions of the tendon may be
removed. If the tendon has ruptured, surgery is necessary to re-attach the tendon. Rehabilitation, including stretching and strength exercises, is started soon after the surgery. In most cases,
normal activities can be resumed after about 10 weeks. Return to competitive sport for some people may be delayed for about three to six months.
To lower your risk of Achilles tendonitis, stretch your calf muscles. Stretching at the beginning of each day will improve your agility and make you less prone to injury. You should also try to
stretch both before and after workouts. To stretch your Achilles, stand with a straight leg, and lean forward as you keep your heel on the ground. If this is painful, be sure to check with a doctor.
It is always a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine. Whenever you begin a new fitness regimen, it is a good idea to set incremental goals. Gradually intensifying
your physical activity is less likely to cause injury. Limiting sudden movements that jolt the heels and calves also helps to reduce the risk of Achilles tendonitis. Try combining both high- and
low-impact exercises in your workouts to reduce stress on the tendon. For example, playing basketball can be combined with swimming. It doesn?t matter if you?re walking, running, or just hanging out.
To decrease pressure on your calves and Achilles tendon, it?s important to always wear the right shoes. That means choosing shoes with proper cushioning and arch support. If you?ve worn a pair of
shoes for a long time, consider replacing them or using arch supports. Some women feel pain in the Achilles tendon when switching from high heels to flats. Daily wearing of high heels can both
tighten and shorten the Achilles tendon. Wearing flats causes additional bending in the foot. This can be painful for the high-heel wearer who is not accustomed to the resulting flexion. One
effective strategy is to reduce the heel size of shoes gradually. This allows the tendon to slowly stretch and increase its range of motion.