The Achilles tendon—the thick “cord” located just above your heel and behind your ankle—is the thickest and strongest tendon in your body. It’s also, unfortunately, the one most likely to be injured.
How is that possible? Just think about the job it has to perform on a day-to-day basis. It has to be strong enough to propel you forward or upward when you run or jump. And of course, it has to be durable enough to absorb the incredible force of your weight when you land.
When the Achilles becomes strained by repetitive motions or overuse, it can become torn or inflamed—or the tendon fibers may even begin to degrade. The term “Achilles tendinitis” is often used to refer to these kinds of tendon injuries and conditions, even if it technically isn’t “tendinitis” (which refers specifically to inflammation).
What Are the Symptoms of Achilles Tendinitis?
The most common symptoms of Achilles tendinitis include aching and pain at the back of the heel, tenderness, and stiffness in the tendon. Often the pain first becomes noticeable as a mild ache after exercise, but over time painful episodes can get worse and last longer.
It is important to note that Achilles tendinitis symptoms may be very similar to other conditions, including Achilles bursitis or pump bump. If you are experiencing any pain in or around the Achilles tendon, you should get it checked out and diagnosed by a professional.
What Causes Achilles Tendinitis?
Most cases of Achilles tendinitis are caused by overuse of the tendon, for one reason or another. Obviously, this means athletes and active individuals—especially runners—are more likely to develop this injury.
Common risk factors we frequently note include:
- Structural defects in feet, such as flat arches.
- Wearing poor-fitting or worn-out shoes.
- Being middle aged or older. (Tendons may become weaker, stiffer, and more prone to injury with age.)
- Training choices such as running on rugged or hilly terrain or running in cold weather.
- Certain medical conditions, including high blood pressure and psoriasis.
- Use of certain medications, including steroid injections and certain antibiotics
How Is Achilles Tendinitis Treated?
At Waukesha Foot Specialists, our goal is to help you relieve your pain, reduce swelling, and restore your previous levels of activity. Seeking treatment earlier will reduce the risk that pain becomes chronic or more severe over time.
There are quite a few treatment options which may be recommended. Treatment plans are customized to the individual needs of each patient, and may include:
- Temporary rest (avoid strenuous activity, keep the foot elevated)
- Ice packs
- Compression bandages
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Stretches and physical therapy
- Custom orthotics
Conservative treatments are almost always sufficient to heal your Achilles tendinitis. However, in rare cases when conservative care is unsuccessful, we may recommend surgical repair of the tendon.
If your Achilles tendon is sore, painful, or stiff, please don’t wait for symptoms to worsen. Give the Waukesha Foot Specialists a call for an appointment. You can reach us at (262) 544-0700 today.