Your Achilles tendon one of the vital components of movement below your knees. It is one of the largest as well as strongest tendons in your entire body. If something goes wrong here it can have an enormous impact on your ability to walk, run, jog, and even jump. Achilles tendinitis can have a lasting effect, and if left untreated develop into more severe medical conditions. Gaining a basic understanding of what to look out for and how to deal with it may save you the hassle of seriously impaired movement down the line.
What is Achilles Tendinitis?
This type of tendinitis affects your strongest and largest tendon. It is the Achilles tendon which is responsible for attaching your calf muscles to your heel bone. It bears an enormous amount of stress, but the elastic properties of this body part allow it to do so with ease unless there is another force working against it.
Achilles tendinitis is the inflammation of this tendon as a result of microtears or damage to the fibers. When this occurs it can cause pain, swelling, and irritation. There are two types of tendinitis that present in this part of your body, insertional and noninsertional tendinitis.
Insertional tendinitis occurs at the point where your Achilles tendon attaches to (inserts) your heel bone. This type of tendinitis can happen at any time regardless of an individual’s level of activity. However, Achilles tendinitis is most often caused by overuse or overexertion of the tendon.
Noninsertional tendinitis affects the middle segment of your Achilles tendon. This happens as a result of microtears that cause the tendon to break down, thicken, and swell. This can signal the degeneration of your Achilles and the fibers which keep it strong and healthy.
The symptoms of Achilles tendinitis should be fairly simple to spot if you know what to look for.
Symptoms of tendinitis here include:
- Skin displaying redness and warmth at the rear of your heel
- Limitations in your range of motion during the flexing of your foot
- Tightness or stiffness in your calf muscle
- Swelling and discomfort on the rear part of your heel
The most common symptoms of Achilles tendinitis are the inflammation, swelling, and pain that occur on the rear of your heel or just above it during activities such as running, walking, and jumping.
It is crucial to understand that this can be a result of overuse of the tendon, and could be a signal to take a break and let your Achilles rest a minute. Afterall, degeneration of this tendon and continued overuse without proper healing time could potentially lead to a significantly more serious condition such as tendon rupture.
You should always consult your doctor to receive proper diagnosis and treatment for any medical condition.
Causes of Achilles Tendinitis
Repetitive activities which include jumping, abrupt increases in the intensity of exercise and other physical activity without giving your body time to acclimate to it, shoes that do not fit properly, and workouts without appropriate warm-up are all factors in developing tendinitis.
There are also age-related causes that can contribute to increasing your risks as well. Blood flow supplying the tendon with the proper nutrients and oxygen-rich blood which support cell growth can diminish as you age. Since this tendon is subject to microtears when overuse occurs, you could find that as you age the healing of the tendon happens at a far decreased rate.
If you are experiencing symptoms of Achilles tendinitis, then there are some simple steps that you can take while you are making an appointment to speak with your doctor.
Since this type of tendinitis is often a result of overuse or overexertion you should reduce or altogether stop your physical activity depending on the severity of inflammation, swelling, and/or pain. You may want to take an anti-inflammatory such as aspirin or ibuprofen. You can also ice the area and elevate your lower leg and foot.
Take your time when you are recovering from tendinitis. If you allow for a few days with the appropriate rest and treatment from home then you can greatly increase your chances of properly recovering. This can also greatly reduce the chances of developing a worse condition or possible injury.
Prevention can be the best type of treatment. When it comes to your Achilles tendon, the simplest ways to prevent tendinitis could also result in increased performance. Having a pair of shoes that fit properly is a surefire way to support your heel and avoid any unnecessary irritation of your Achilles. You may also want to try using a brace to reduce your risk of developing Achilles tendinitis. These can play a significant role in providing aiding your tendon as well as helping to reduce pain and swelling if they are present.
You may also find that gentle stretching and eventual strengthening of your calf muscles could help. You can do low-intensity resistance band exercises to give this area a workout without placing too much stress or strain on the tendon. This should also continue to provide the muscles and tendon with an elevated blood flow which can help along the healing process.
Surgery May Be Required
Depending on the severity, you may be at a point where surgery is a realistic option. It is important that you speak to your doctor to make sure that you are aware of all your other options. However, because of the risks that degeneration and tendinitis pose to your Achilles, you may be in a position where the potential for tendon rupture could be just around the corner.
If you find yourself in the position of preparing for surgery, it may help to be very clear with your doctor about what kinds of activity are okay, and which to avoid. Make sure you take the time to ask the questions and be as specific as possible to ensure that you aren’t putting yourself at risk for damaging anything post surgery.