The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the human body and can withstand forces of 1,000 pounds or more. It's also called the heel cord and helps us walk by raising the heel off the ground.
Achilles tendonitis is an inflammation of the Achilles tendon. It typically resolves with proper conservative treatment over a short period of time. However, if the Achilles tendon ruptures it will require surgery which will take much longer to heal. Both professional and weekend athletes may suffer from Achilles tendonitis, a common overuse injury and inflammation of the tendon.
Achilles tendonitis is considered an overuse injury, making runners and other athletes more prone to acquiring it. Some specific situations that can put a person at risk for Achilles tendonitis are:
- Hill running or stair climbing
- Rapidly increasing 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.
- Improper footwear and/or a tendency toward overpronation.
Achilles tendonitis often begins with mild pain after exercise or running that gradually worsens. Other symptoms include:
- Aching, stiffness, soreness or tenderness. It can occur where the Achilles attaches above the heel to the region just below the calf muscle.Pain and these symptoms occur most often upon waking and periods of rest and lessen with movement.
- Tenderness, or sometimes intense pain can be experienced when the side of the tendon are squeezed.
- When the disorder progresses to degeneration, it can become enlarged and nodules can develop in the area where the tissue is damaged.
Treatment normally includes:
- Immobilzation which can include a walking boot
- MLS laser therapy for pain relief and reduction of inflammation
- Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication for a period of time. Note: Please consult your physician before taking any medication.
- Orthotics, which are corrective shoe inserts designed to help support the muscle and relieve stress on the tendon. Over-the-counter shoe inserts and prescribed custom orthotics may be recommended depending on the length and severity of the problem.
- Physical therapy to include strengthening exercises, soft-tissue massage/mobilization, gait and running education, stretching, and use of ultrasound.
- Surgery may be needed if the tendon does not recover using more conservative approaches.
- Strengthening and stretching the calf muscle
- Proper footwear
- Going slowly when building up physical activities
If you've tried OTC non-prescription orthotics and they aren't working for you, you may need custom orthotics. The Foot and Ankle Center of Lake City has a comprehensive treatment plan for Achilles tendonitis.
For more information about Achilles tendonitis:
Call us today at 206-368-7000 for an appointment. Often same day for emergencies and less than 2 weeks for chronic foot pain. You can also request an appointment online.
For more information about heel pain in runners download our eBook, "The Complete Guide to Stopping Heel Pain in Runners".
In addition, our newsletter "Foot Sense" comes out monthly. You can also check out our past issues. Every issue contains a mouth-watering recipe and can be printed out for easier reading!
Seattle foot and ankle specialist, Dr. Rion Berg offers foot care for patients with bunions, heel pain, diabetes, fungal toenails, ingrown nails, and surgical solutions when needed to residents of Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood and other surrounding suburbs.