Achilles Tendonitis - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Prevention
Health Education

Achilles Tendonitis : A disorder of the tendon

Dr.Amith Jain profile Authored by Dr.Amith Jain on 28 Feb 2014 - 12:47.


The Achilles tendon passes posterior to the ankle and connects the heel bone with the calf muscles. It is the thickest and strongest tendon in the body. Achilles tendinitis is one of the several conditions of Achilles tendon, caused due to excessive use of the tendon leading to its injury.

When the tendon is injured it can cause severe pain along the back of the leg near the heel.Achilles tendonitis is more common among athletes/runners because of the constant stress laid on the tendonswhile running or brisk walking. Achilles tendinitis can be self-managed with rest and applying ice frequently, but if not managed and treated on time, it can lead to the rupture of the tendon partially or completely, causing severe pain.

The root cause of Achilles tendinitis is repetitive exposure of the Achilles tendon to intense strain. With age, the Achilles tendon becomes weak making the person more susceptible to injury on sudden strain applied to the foot.

Some probable causes of Achilles tendon injury are:

  • Overuse of the heel
     
  • On and off excessive physical activity
     
  • Insufficient stretching before exercise
     
  • Continuous use of high heels
     
  • Other foot problems
     
  • Very tight muscles/tendons in the leg
     
  • Some activities like dancing, playing softball, football, gymnastic etc.

Achilles tendinitissymptoms may vary from mild to severe, but it often begins as a mild pain in the lower foot, especially to the posterior sideof the leg or above the heel. Symptoms may get worsened by excessive stress on the legs and feet, especially after climbing stairs, running or walking long distance.

Some prominent symptoms of Achilles tendinitis are:

  • Mild to severe pain along the back of your foot and above your heel
     
  • Tendered leg/foot muscles
     
  • Inflexibility
     
  • Swelling
     
  • Stiffness along the back of your foot
     
  • Difficulty in pointing your toes

Diagnosis of Achilles Tendinitis includes the following tests and examinations:

  • Physical examination–The doctor may examine your feet for swelling, tenderness, flexibility, reflexes, alignment and location of pain.
     
  • X-rays - To rule out other conditions responsible for similar symptoms.
     
  • Ultrasound – As it produces a picture, injury and condition of tendons can be seen and detected.
     
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – To see the detailed images of Achilles tendon and to rule out any defect of the tendon.

Although anyone can be a victim of Achilles Tendinitis, the following factors may increase the risk of developing it :

  • Being in middle age
     
  • A naturally flat arch in your foot
     
  • Being obese
     
  • Tight calf muscles
     
  • Running in worn-out shoes
     
  • Running on hilly terrain
     
  • Exposure to cold weather
     
  • Having diabetes or hypertension
     
  • Certain medications like fluoroquinolones

Although Achilles tendinitis can be self-treated with physiotherapy at home as advised by medical expert. However, some patients may need medication and even surgery to recover, depending on the severity of  injury and pain.

Physiotherapy:

  •  Therapists may teach you specific stretching and strengthening exercises to strengthen the tendons and to increase flexibility.
     
  • Orthotic devices – The doctor may suggest taking the support of  certain devices like a shoe insert or wedge that can reduce the strain on the tendon.


Medications: The doctor may prescribe painkillers and medicines to reduce inflammation.


Surgery: When all other treatments fail to relieve symptoms, the doctor may suggest surgery to correct the defect inthe Achilles tendon.


Home remedies:

  • Resting and avoid straining the feet.
     
  • Using walking boots and crutches.
     
  • Applying ice on the painful part of the foot for about 15 minutes.
     
  • Using wraps or compressive elastic bandages to reduce swelling and movement.
     
  • Keeping the affected foot elevated while sleeping in thenight


There are no direct measures to prevent Achilles Tendinitis; but its risk can be minimized through the following measures:

  • Gradually increasing physical activity.
     
  • Avoiding excess stress on your tendons.
     
  • Warming up before exercising.
     
  • Avoiding using worn-out shoes.
     
  • Practicing stretching exercises to maintain flexibility
*Disclaimer This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.