Achilles tendinitis is a common problem that occurs due to inflammation and irritation of the large tendon that runs down the back of the lower leg. This tendon, connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. It is responsible for facilitating several movements, including walking, running, climbing stairs, jumping, and standing on tiptoes. Despite its ability to endure significant stress from these activities, overuse can lead to tendinitis, which is a common condition associated with the Achilles tendon.
It is caused by overuse of the Achilles tendon, which is a band of tissue connecting the calf muscles to the heel bone in the lower leg. The injury is typically seen in runners who have suddenly increased the intensity or duration of their runs, as well as middle-aged individuals who participate in sports like basketball or tennis on weekends.
Another term you might encounter is “tendinopathy,”. It describes a condition where the tendon experiences microscopic degeneration due to extensive damage over time. Tendinitis, tendinosis, and tendinopathy are interchangeable terms that describe the same issue.
Achilles Tendonitis Vs Achilles Rupture
Achilles tendinitis is not the same as Achilles rupture. The latter occurs when the tendon is either torn in half or separated from the heel bone. Achilles rupture is often caused by a sudden injury. The primary subject of discussion of this blog will be Achilles tendinitis rather than Achilles tendon rupture.
Symptoms of Achilles Tendinitis
- Achilles tendinitis causes
- Pain in the back of the heel (while wearing shoes)
- Persistent swelling in the affected area
- Formation of bone spur (insertional tendinitis)
- Thickening of the tendon
- Chronic pain after exercise
- Pain along the back of the heel or tendon that worsens with activity
- Pain and stiffness in the Achilles tendon
Achilles Tendinitis Types
There are two types –
- Nonintentional Achilles tendinitis
In this type the fibers located in the middle part of the Achilles tendon, that are just above where it attaches to the heel, are impacted. As time progresses, these fibers may start to deteriorate and form small ruptures, which can result in inflammation swelling and thickening of the tendon. This type of tendinitis is typically seen in younger individuals who are more active, particularly runners.
- Insertional Achilles Tendinitis
The condition known as Insertional Achilles tendinitis affects the lower part of the tendon where it connects to the heel bone or calcaneus. Over time, the damaged tendon fibers in both insertional and nonintentional Achilles tendinitis can harden (calcify) and form bone spurs on the heel, specifically in the case of insertional Achilles tendinitis. This condition can occur regardless of the activity level or time, although it is more prevalent among runners. Calf muscle tightness is a common cause of this condition as it increases the stress on the Achilles tendon insertion.
When to see a doctor?
If you experience any of the signs and symptoms associated with Achilles tendinitis – and also, experience severe and persistent pain along the Achilles tendon or the back of the heel, then you should see an orthopedic doctor immediately.
Orthopedic Doctor’s Examination
When you see a doctor and describe your symptoms, the doctor will examine your foot and ankle. During the physical examination, your doctor will see whether you feel pain while stretching your calf. The doctor will also look for these signs – swelling at the back of your heel; pain or bone spurs near the lower part pf the tendon; a reduced or restricted ability to point toes downward and pain in the middle of the tendon.
Generally, when it comes to Achilles tendinitis, non-surgical treatments can effectively relieve pain, but it may take a few months for symptoms to disappear completely. Even with early treatment, the pain may persist for more than 3 months.
Anti-inflammatory pain medicines, corticosteroid injections, modifying activities, changing footwear, and doing physical therapy exercises are the primary methods used for non-surgical treatment.
Most instances of Achilles tendinitis can be addressed through basic self-care methods with the oversight of a medical professional. It’s crucial to adhere to these approaches to avoid the condition from happening again. Nevertheless, for severe cases, Achilles tendinitis can lead to torn or ruptured tendons that may necessitate surgical treatment.