Achilles Tendonitis

What is it?

The Achilles tendon is a tendon in the back of your lower leg that attaches your calf muscles to your heel. Achilles tendonitis is a fancy way to say that the tendon that attaches at the back of your heel is tight and inflamed. Pain can be felt anywhere along the tendon but most people get the pain either at the heel or just above the heel. This injury can develop after one incident or it can be due to repetitive use but is most commonly due to repetitive use injuries. Achilles tendonitis can develop in anyone but it is much more common in active individuals. Approximately 50% of all runners will experience some degree of this injury at some point in their lives and almost 90% of all Achilles tendon injuries occur in males.

How do you get it?

  • Stiffness in muscles and joints
  • Improper footwear
  • Improper or abnormal foot mechanics
  • A change in exercise routine

How does it feel?

Most people with Achilles tendonitis describe the following symptoms:procarept_achilles_tendonitis

  • Tenderness in the heel or higher up in the Achilles tendon
  • Tightness in the ankle and calf
  • Swelling in the back of the ankle
  • Pain in the back of the heel
  • Pain and stiffness with walking, worst with the first several steps

How do you prevent it?

As stated above, improper footwear can really contribute to foot and ankle pain. Make sure that the shoes that you are wearing are appropriate for both the activity that you are doing but also for your individual feet. If you have naturally low arches, make sure that you are buying shoes that have good arch support.

Muscle and joint stiffness are also a large contributor to Achilles tendon injuries. Think of the tendon like a rubber band. If you pull the rubber band really tight and then apply pressure to it, it is far more likely to snap or tear than if it is loose. Before and after exercise, make sure you leave time to stretch.

Maintaining muscular strength, especially in the calf, will really help support the Achilles tendon so that it is less prone to injury. If the calf is strong, less responsibility is placed on the Achilles to keep everything balanced and in place.

If you are starting a new exercise or sports activity routine, ease yourself into it. If you have never run before, don’t try to run a 5K on your first day. Let your body get used to the new exercises to decrease chance of any kind of injury.

Once you have it, how do you treat it?

Physical therapists can help to decrease pain and swelling while working to decrease risk factors that could lead to re-injury. Physical therapists will work with you to address any deficits in strength, flexibility, and balance. They can also evaluate your footwear and your body mechanics when performing your favorite activity in order to ensure that you are doing everything in a way that minimizes risk for injury. If there is a tear in the Achilles tendon, an orthopedist/podiatrist may recommend surgery to repair the tendon. In that case, you would have surgery and then would be referred to physical therapy for rehabilitation after the operation.

If you are dealing with pain, take the first step today. Call PROCare Physical Therapy to schedule a FREE pain assessment today! 414-858-1361 (New Berlin clinic) or 414-727-3345 (Greenfield clinic)


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