What causes Achilles Tendonitis?
The Achilles tendon is the soft tissue located in the heel which connects calf muscle to the heel bone allowing the body to perform certain activities such as rising on the tip toes and pushing off when running or walking. Achilles tendonitis occurs when the tendon becomes damaged through excessive pressure through over stretching or impact to the tendon which it is unable to withstand. This is often due to continuous force being put on the heel through prolonged levels of activity and over use however can also come as a result of sudden impact or force to the area common in contact sports such as rugby and hockey.
Another cause of damage can be down to bad posture of the feet or poor bio-mechanics when walking or running and even more common, due to the prolonged wear of poorly fitting and unsupported footwear.
Achilles Tendonitis Symptoms
The most common symptom of Achilles tendonitis is pain in the heel and back of the ankle, however this can be mistaken as general stiffness or aches, often more prominent when resting or first thing in the morning. Heat and pain is often felt when activity is started in the early stages of the condition. With this injury it is also common to experience swelling and inflammation in the area.
In more severe cases, patients may find it difficult if not impossible to bear any weight on the foot and therefore have a limp when walking.
Achilles Tendonitis Diagnosis
In order to diagnose Achilles tendonitis a doctor will give a full examination of the area and sometimes an X ray is performed in order to confirm the diagnosis. A doctor may also recommend an MRI or CT scan is used to rule out any further injury or complications.
Achilles Tendonitis Treatment
In order to treat Achilles tendonitis, rest is crucial to allow the injury chance to heal. It is important that no activity which increases pain or puts added pressure on the area is undergone to prevent further injury or increasing the healing period.
Often a temporary heel pad is used in order to raise the heel and alleviate strain from the tendon allowing the injury to heal more effectively.
Investing in properly fitting footwear can also prevent Achilles tendonitis reoccurring by improving foot support and can help stop any bad habits or poor biomechanics, this can be achieved using insoles.
When the condition is in its final stages the patient can begin to take gradual steps back to activity which can involve increase in weight bearing activity and strengthening exercises advised by a physiotherapist to keep the area strong and ensure flexibility once the patient has made a full recovery and has returned to sports. This should not be done without professional advice as a patient can run the risk of aggravating the area and increase the healing process. Within the first few months of returning to training, stretching exercises may be performed to keep the area stable and strong and can also help prevent the injury reoccurring.