The Achilles tendon, the large tendon that connects the calf muscles and heel bone, plays a vital role in walking, running, and other activities that involve the lower extremities. However, it is also one of the most frequently injured tendons. Achilles tendonitis, characterized by inflammation of the Achilles tendon, can be a painful and limiting condition that may require orthopedic treatment for relief and mobility restoration.
Causes and Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis
Achilles tendonitis typically develops due to overuse or repetitive stress on the Achilles tendon. Some common causes and contributing factors include excessive exercise and suddenly increasing physical activity. Improper footwear can contribute to Achilles tendonitis, as well as certain foot conditions. Poor stretching techniques during warm-up and cool-down after training can increase the risk of Achilles tendonitis. Advanced age is also a factor.
The symptoms of Achilles tendonitis can range from mild discomfort to severe pain. Common signs and symptoms include:
- Pain: The most prevalent symptom is pain in the Achilles tendon, typically located near the back of the heel. The pain may worsen with physical activity.
- Stiffness: The Achilles tendon may feel stiff and less flexible, particularly in the morning or after periods of rest.
- Swelling: Inflammation of the tendon can result in swelling around the affected area.
- Tenderness: The Achilles tendon may be tender to the touch.
- Weakness: Some individuals may experience weakness in the affected leg, especially when pushing off the ground while walking or running.
Mild Achilles tendonitis symptoms may dissipate with rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications and other conservative treatments. However, for more pronounced symptoms, orthopedic treatment may be required.
Treatment Options for Achilles Tendonitis
Achilles tendonitis treatment aims to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and promote healing. Depending on the severity of the condition, orthopedic treatment options may include:
- Physical Therapy: A physical therapist can recommend exercises to strengthen and stretch the calf muscles and Achilles tendon, improving flexibility and preventing recurrence.
- Orthotics: Custom or over-the-counter shoe inserts may be prescribed to correct biomechanical issues and reduce stress on the Achilles tendon.
- Medications: Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen may help reduce pain and inflammation.
- Corticosteroid Injections: In some cases, a healthcare provider may administer corticosteroid injections to alleviate pain and inflammation.
- Surgery: Surgical intervention is considered a last resort for severe cases that don’t respond to conservative treatments. Surgery may involve removing damaged tissue or repairing the tendon.
Achilles tendonitis is a common condition that can cause pain and discomfort in the lower leg. Understanding its causes, recognizing its symptoms, and seeking timely treatment are essential for a successful recovery. With appropriate care, most individuals with Achilles tendonitis can expect to return to their normal activities pain-free. If you suspect you have Achilles tendonitis, contact our Ortho Sport & Spine Physicians team to schedule a consultation with one of our orthopedic specialists for a comprehensive evaluation and personalized treatment plan.
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