In essence, Achilles tendinitis is brought about by the intense or repetitive strain on the Achilles tendon.
Simply put, it is an injury of the Achilles tendon secondary to overuse.
The band of tissue that links your calf muscles found at the back of your lower leg to your heel bone is known as the Achilles tendon.
As you age, the structure of this tendon weakens, making you more susceptible to injuries. This condition is common among runners who abruptly increase the duration or intensity of their runs and middle-aged individuals who play sports like basketball and tennis only on the weekends.
Fortunately, many cases of Achilles tendinitis will respond to simple, at-home remedies supervised by a medical professional. However, more serious cases can lead to ruptures or tendon tears that will likely require surgical repair.
Typical symptoms of Achilles tendinitis include stiffness, tenderness, and mild pain in the back of the leg above the heel. This usually occurs after running or other intense activities.
Pain can increase in the event of prolonged sprinting, stair climbing, or running. If pain is intense and persistent, seeking medical attention is recommended as a rupture may have likely occurred.
Below are a few of the factors that will increase your risk of developing Achilles tendinitis:
- Sex – Achilles tendinitis is observed to be more common among men.
- Training choices – Running on a hilly terrain can increase your chances of developing Achilles injury. Wearing worn-out shoes can also increase your risk.
- Physical problems – There is more strain on your Achilles tendon when you have a flat arch in your foot. In addition, tight calf muscles and obesity are also known to add to the tendon’s strain.
- Medical conditions – Individuals who are suffering from high blood pressure and psoriasis are more predisposed to Achilles injury.
- Age – Achilles tendinitis occurs more often as one ages.
To gauge if a patient has Achilles tendinitis, the doctor will evaluate the alignment, reflexes, range of motion, and flexibility of both the foot and the ankle.
However, in some instances, the doctor will require one or more of the following tests to evaluate the condition more accurately.
- Ultrasound – This device makes use of sound waves to visualize the soft tissues. It can also produce a real-time image of your tendon in action. To evaluate the blood flow around the tendon, color-Doppler ultrasound is used.
- X-rays – Unlike the ultrasound, X-rays cannot visualize the soft tissues. However, it can help rule out other conditions that have similar symptoms.
- Magnetic resonance imaging or MRI – MRI machines can produce highly detailed images using a strong magnet and radio waves.
While there is no foolproof way to prevent Achilles tendinitis, it is reassuring to know there are plenty of measures you can adapt to reduce your risk.
The following tips should help keep Achilles tendinitis at bay:
Don’t overexert yourself. Refrain from doing activities that will put excessive stress on your tendons. If you intend to participate in strenuous activities, be sure to warm up first. If you are going to do an exercise routine, it is advisable to start slow then gradually increase the intensity and duration as you go along.
Do cross-training. To keep your Achilles tendon safe, it is recommended that you do not focus on high-impact activities alone. While it would be okay to do jumping and running, it is ideal to throw in low-impact activities into the equation like swimming and cycling so you do not strain your tendons.
Do not forget to stretch. Do stretch your Achilles tendon and calf muscles in the morning before and after exercising to enhance flexibility. Stretching will also ensure a recurrence of Achilles tendinitis is avoided.