The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the human body and can withstand forces of 1,000 pounds or more. It also is the most frequently ruptured tendon, usually as a result of a sports injury.
Achilles tendonitis is a common overuse injury and inflammation of the tendon, commonly experienced by both professional and weekend athletes .
Achilles tendonitis may be caused by:
- Hill running, stair climbing and jumping.
- General overuse, stemming from the natural lack of flexibility in the calf muscles.
- Rapid increase in mileage or speed when walking, jogging, or running.
- Starting up too quickly after a layoff in exercise or sports activity, without adequately stretching and warming up the foot.
- Trauma caused by sudden and/or hard contraction of the calf muscles when putting out extra effort, such as in a sprint or jump.
- Improper and poor fitting footwear and/or a tendency toward overpronation.
Achilles tendonitis often begins with mild pain/discomfort after exercise or running that gradually becomes painful on heel lift.
Symptoms may also include:
- Recurring localized pain, sometimes severe, along the tendon during or a few hours after running.
- Morning tenderness just above the point where the Achilles tendon is attached to the heel bone.
- Weakness/sluggishness in your leg.
- Mild or severe swelling.
- Tightness/stiffness that generally diminishes as the tendon warms up with use.
Treatment normally includes:
- Laser therapy to improve circulation and healing to the inflamed tendon.
- A bandage/taping specifically designed to restrict motion of the tendon.
- Foot Orthotics, which are anatomically corrective shoe inserts designed to help support the muscle and heel bone in order relieve stress on the tendon. Both non-prescription orthoses (such as a heel pads or over-the-counter shoe inserts) and prescribed custom orthotics may be recommended depending on the length and severity of the problem.
- Rest and switching to exercises that do not stress the tendon (such as swimming).
- Stretching and exercises to strengthen the weak muscle group in front of the leg, calf and foot flexors, as well as massage and ultrasound.
- Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication for a period of time.
- Note: Please consult your chiropodist or podiatrist before taking any medication.
In extreme cases, surgery may be required to remove the fibrous tissue and repair any tears.