A common sports injury, Achilles tendinitis occurs when the band of tissue that connects calf muscles at the back of the lower leg to your heel bone becomes inflamed. The tendon could rupture and tear, causing severe pain. The condition causes swelling and pain along the back of the leg near the heel. It is usually seen in runners who have suddenly increased the intensity or duration of their runs. It is also common in middle-aged people who play sports such as tennis or basketball. Established pain management centers based in Brooklyn, NYC offer treatment for this running injury. The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms, and help patients heal quickly and get back to prior activity levels without difficulty.
The condition is mainly associated with repetitive physical activities which strain the tendon structure, postural problems (having flat feet or high-arched feet), bone spurs in the heels, exercising without a proper warm up, running on uneven or excessively hard ground or running on slanted surfaces, and footwear issues. It is also associated with the aging process. Tendonitis is also linked to rheumatoid arthritis and infection.
Typically, the pain associated with Achilles tendinitis begins as a mild ache in the back of the leg or above the heel after running or other sports activity. The pain can become severe after prolonged running, stair climbing or sprinting. Common symptoms include –
- Discomfort or swelling in the back of the heel
- Tight calf muscles
- Worsening pain and limited range of motion when flexing your foot
- Skin on your heel overly warm to the touch
- Formation of swells or bumps in your foot
- Feeling of stiffness or weakness around your ankle
- Severe pain the day after exercising
- Thickening of the tendon
- Bone spurs (insertional tendinitis)
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis usually begins with the physician asking questions about the heel/calf pain and swelling and pinpoint the specific area where the symptoms most severe. Patients may be asked to stand on the balls of the feet so that range of motion and flexibility can be assessed. Imaging tests such as x-ray (of the foot and leg bones), MRI scan and ultrasound may be done to identify the extent of damage and inflammation.
Brooklyn-based healthcare centers offer nonsurgical treatment modalities for this condition. The type of treatment recommended will depend on the severity of the condition and whether the patient is a professional athlete or not.
- Rest – Patients will be advised to decrease/stop activities that make the pain worse. Never exert additional pressure or weight on your tendon for one to two days. The type of rest needed depends on the severity of the symptoms. Tendon healing will be faster if no additional strain is placed on it during this time. Cross-training activities like biking, elliptical exercise, and swimming are low-impact activities that help you stay active.
- Ice – Applying Ice packs (for 15 to 20 minutes), when in pain or after exercising can help alleviate pain, swelling and inflammation.
- Compression – GameReady, the advanced compression therapy (cryotherapy with compression) works effectively to address Achilles tendon rupture or tear.
- Elevation – Elevating or keeping the foot above the level of your chest can reduce swelling.
- Pain relief medications – Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen, can reduce pain and swelling.
- Physical therapy exercises – Physical therapy involves therapeutic exercise programs like stretching, strengthening and isometric exercises which helps promote healing and strengthening of the Achilles tendon and its supporting structures.
- Steroid injections – Corticosteroid injections can provide short-term pain relief.
- Supportive shoes and orthotics – Ankle supports and shoe inserts take the extra stress off the tendon. Heel lifts, which move the foot away from the back of the shoe, may help with insertional Achilles tendinitis. Foot Levelers Functional Orthotics soles can be easily slipped into any type of closed footwear. By supporting the feet, orthotics help alleviate pain throughout the body and improve balance.
Even with early treatment, the Achilles tendonitis pain may last longer than three months. Surgical procedure may be considered only non-surgical treatments are not effective.
Achilles tendonitis usually resolves in a few days with rest and proper home treatment. Recovery may take a longer time if you continue to put pressure on the tendon or don’t change your exercise habits to prevent another injury or rupture. Strategies like stretching the calf muscles, choosing low-impact exercise patterns, gradually reducing shoe heel size, and choosing shoes with proper cushioning and arch support could help reduce risks of this running injury.