Do you experience pain in your heel while walking or any activity? Do you find it challenging to stretch your feet? Do your feet hurt each time you take a step? Have you recently suffered from an injury on your feet, and the pain refuses to give away?
If you relate to the questions above, then you might be a victim of Achilles Tendonitis. As confusing as the name sounds, the symptoms and effects are even more complicating and can cause severe pain or discomfort while performing routine activities. The condition is associated with pain due to injury/inflammation of the Achilles Tendon.
If you or any of your family members suffer from the conditions mentioned above, you may want to read our article below and take suitable and curative measures. Read on to find out as we have all the details that you need to know about Achilles Tendonitis.
What is Achilles Tendonitis
Achilles Tendonitis is an inflammation of the tendon that attaches your calf muscles to the heel. You can feel this tendon by touching it, running from the back of your heel to the calves. This tendon allows you to stretch your feet, stand on your toes, and flex your feet downwards, granting flexibility for movement or physical activity.
Ideally, there are two types of Achilles Tendonitis conditions:
Insertional Achilles Tendonitis: This happens in the lower area of the entire tendon region, which attaches to the heel bone.
Non-insertional Achilles Tendonitis: This condition generally happens in the middle portion of the tendon. The non-insertional type is more common in young people and athletes.
Most athletes and dancers, or people with intense physical activity, require a strong Achilles tendon for flexibility. An injury to this tendon due to any extreme physical activity is known as Achilles Tendonitis.
The condition can be treated with mild exercise and stretching as your doctor suggests. However, an intense rupture of the tendon may require surgical intervention.
Causes of Achilles Tendonitis
Achilles Tendonitis has now become a lifestyle disorder. This means there are varied causes to this condition. People who have arthritis or any feet associated infection pose a greater risk for developing the condition.
Here are a few common causes of Achilles Tendonitis:
- Excessive strain on the calf muscles due to intense exercise or activity
- Jumping onto intense activity in very short intervals, causing stress to the tendons
- Performing Heavy activity without a proper warmup
- Avoid stretching the feet after an intense activity
- Wearing ill-fitted shoes that don’t support the feet
- Ballet dancing involving prolonged hours of dancing on the toes
- Wearing high heels for long hours
- Old age can weaken your Achilles Tendon
- Any previous fractures, injuries, or bone spurs can cause Achilles Tendonitis
Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis
You can detect if you have Achilles Tendonitis or not by looking for the symptoms mentioned below:
- Swelling at the back of your heel
- Feeling pain or discomfort when you stretch your feet
- Feeling uneasy or painful while stretching or flexing your feet
- Limited range of motion of the feet
- The skin behind the heel feels warm due to inflammation
You may experience these symptoms, mainly after you have performed some extreme activity on your feet like walking, running, or standing for long hours.
Older adults or people who have gone through a previous injury may experience these symptoms even with slight activity levels on their feet.
Treatment of an Achilles Injury
The treatment for Achilles Tendonitis totally depends on the severity of the condition. Based on this, treatment can be done either at home or may require surgical intervention in extreme cases. Certain cases also involve the use of steroid injections, surgery, or plasma injections.
Here are a few options you could consider to treat Achilles injury at the earliest:
- Less movement and complete rest for a few days
- Reduce the intensity of physical activity
- Regular stretches or exercises for relaxing the tendons
- Doing a less impactful or stressful activity (like swimming, cycling, etc.)
- Heat treatment or icing during inflammation
- Using supportive tools like feet braces to eliminate pressure on the tendon
- Wearing supportive and properly fitting shoes, preferably with a slight supportive heel to reduce the pressure on the Achilles tendon
- Consuming anti-inflammatory medicines like aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.
If all these do not work, then doctors may suggest steroid injections or surgical intervention in extreme cases.
RICE Method for Treating Achilles Tendonitis
RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation method. It is very effective for reducing inflammation due to injury or muscle strain. Here is what you need to do for following this method for effective relief:
Rest includes not applying pressure on your tendon at all. Slight pressure due to even walking or standing on your feet for some time can cause swelling and pain later. You could use wheelchairs or a pair of crutches to reduce the pressure on your feet. Rest without applying any pressure on the tendon only helps in more significant and quicker relief.
Ice is known to be a long-time healer for any kind of inflammation. You could use an ice bag or simply put some ice pieces in a bag and wrap the bag with a cloth. Use the ice pack on the swollen areas, and rub it across the tendon, stretching from the calf to the back of the heel. Do this for 15-20 minutes twice a day to reduce the inflammation faster.
Keep the tendon and the muscles around in a wrapped-up position for faster healing. Therefore, compression provides excellent relief. You can use a crepe bandage or an athletic tape that stretches across your feet and fits well to provide adequate compression for the best results. If these are not handy, a cloth wrapped tightly around the injured area also helps. Compression improves blood circulation for faster healing.
We usually keep the foot in an elevated position or tie it up at an angle to heal faster during fractures. The same is the case recommended for Achilles Tendonitis. The elevation method allows adequate rest to your feet and aids in blood circulation and reduced swelling.
Due to elevation, all the blood flows back towards the heart from the injury site, thereby reducing inflammation in that area. You can either suspend your feet at an angle or use a pillow to keep them at an elevation.
Exercises/Stretches for Achilles Tendonitis
If you have injured your feet due to Achilles Tendonitis or have a prolonged history of feet-associated disorders, then you must follow a routine set of stretches or exercises. Read on as we recommend a few stretches that you can follow and how to perform them:
For this exercise, you will need a chair or a wall around you for support. Here’s how you can do it:
- Place your hands on a chair or a wall and stand at an arm’s distance from the support
- Now, mimic a running position, with one leg behind and one leg ahead and bent towards the wall
- Stretch the leg that is placed behind, such that the heel touches the floor and there is no bend. Hold for 30 seconds till you feel a slight stretch.
- Release if you feel pain, else continue for 30 seconds, and perform 3-5 repetitions for each leg.
Toe to Wall Stretch
You can perform this exercise either with the Runner’s stretch or in alternative to the runner’s stretch if you are uncomfortable using your arms. Here is how you can do it:
- Use the leg that is injured due to Achilles Tendonitis and lean it against the wall
- The position should be such that the affected foot is ahead and touching the wall while the other one is behind
- Now, place your toes up, against the wall and touch the heel to the floor. Try to touch the toes higher for a better stretch
- Lean forward, maintaining this position, and hold for 30 seconds
- Perform 3-5 repetitions of 30 seconds each for both legs if you have pain in both
Heel Drop/Calf Raises:
Heel drops or Calf Raises are very effective in stretching the entire section of the tendon, stretching right across the calf to the back of the heel. You will need an elevated surface like a platform to climb or ladder or even stairs at your house or area. Here is what to do:
- Hold the railings of the ladder or staircase for support and body balance
- Place the ball of your foot on the platform or edge of the step; your heel should suspend in the air, only your ball of foot and feet should be touching the edge.
- Let your heel drop, then raise it, and continue this movement for up to 10-15 repetitions
- You may carry out three sets of this variation based on the intensity of injury and pain
Tips to Remember while stretching/exercising:
- Perform the movements slowly
- Stop exercising or stretching if you feel any kind of pain or discomfort
- Do not overdo on the stretches
- Continue to perform these stretches despite getting healed over time to avoid recurring pain.
- Avoid any bounce and impact on the feet. Avoid swift movements that may cause further pain and stress to your tendons.
Surgery for Achilles Tendonitis
Surgical intervention for Achilles Tendonitis is not recommended unless the condition is very severe and if the above methods have proved futile. You may want to consult an orthopedic surgeon for such extreme cases. He may carry out an x-ray/ct-scan or MRI Scan to study and diagnose the severity of your injury and, if required, suggest surgery.
There are two types of surgery for extreme Achilles Tendonitis:
- Open repair: Here, the orthopedic surgeon makes an incision above your heel bone. If the tendon is ruptured, he sews the two ends of the ruptured tendon together and closes the incision.
- Another method also includes an incision on your leg where the injury has taken place. Then the surgeon passes needles through the tendons and fixes them through suturing. Finally, he closes the incision made on your leg.
Usually, after surgery, the doctor recommends complete rest and asks you to avoid pressure on your feet. If you do not take proper care and do not follow the doctor’s instructions, then you can rupture the tendon again even before it has healed.
Surgery can also bring other complications. If you suffer from any additional feet associated injury or infection, it will take a longer time to heal due to surgical repair on your feet.
How to Prevent Achilles Tendonitis
If you are prone to feet associated problems or if you simply want to avoid Achilles tendonitis, here a few ways to prevent it:
- Avoid wearing high heels always
- Wear shoes that provide stable arch and heel support. Slightly elevated shoes with good heel support are fine to prevent Achilles Tendonitis
- Do not jump to high impact activities suddenly
- Keep it easy while exercising, increase the intensity of activities only gradually
- If transitioning from heels to flats, do it gradually to not shock your feet while also increasing their range of motion.
- Perform adequate amount of stretches after exercise to reduce stiffness of the tendons and muscles and reduce chances of injury
- Perform a combination of high-impact and low-impact activities and take rest days to relax your tendons and muscles.
- If your family has a history of Achilles Tendonitis, then prevention from an early age is highly advisable.
Achilles Tendonitis happens due to any minor or major impact or injury on your tendons. The pain usually occurs at the back of the heel and stretches right across the calf muscles. If you do not detect the condition in time, it can get worse, leading to surgical intervention.
Therefore, we have listed all the information that you require on Achilles Tendonitis and how you can take adequate prevention to reduce severity and pain due to injury. By keeping ourselves informed and performing the stretches and exercises, we can maintain our feet’ health and take action in times of trouble or if affected by Achilles Tendonitis.
Read our article and let us know if we could help you by placing your comments below.
Brandon R. Katz is a registered professional nurse who has been instrumental in providing us with an informed opinion on the medical aspects of footwear. He graduated from NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and currently provides his services at a non-federal long-term care hospital in Brooklyn, NY.
Brandon proves to be the champion in the group of expert writers with his in-depth knowledge in foot health, how to take care of it adequately, and what shoes, socks, or insoles will be supreme for you. He has previously worked with hospitals where he has foreseen both inpatient and outpatient departments and has been a practicing nurse since 2009.
Brandon hails from Jersey City, NY, and has a loving family of four with a small popper called Rozo. His decision to become a nurse arises from the desire to be in the position of helping and rehabilitating people.