Achilles tendinitis is a condition that happens when the Achilles tendon, the large cord-like structure at the back of your ankle that connects your calf muscles to your heel bone, becomes irritated and inflamed. This tendon is crucial for walking, running, and jumping, making it an essential part of your leg.
Non-Insertional Achilles Tendinitis: This type occurs in the middle part of the tendon and is usually associated with overuse or ageing. Small tears and thickening of the tendon can develop over time.
Insertional Achilles Tendinitis: This type affects the lower part of the tendon, right where it attaches to the heel bone. Factors like bone spurs or tight calf muscles can cause it.
Achilles tendinitis is a fairly common condition, especially among athletes and people who engage in sports requiring much running and jumping. It can also affect individuals who don’t participate in sports, often due to overuse, improper footwear, or sudden changes in physical activity.
Achilles tendinitis can be triggered by a combination of factors, often related to overuse or strain on the Achilles tendon. Here are some common causes:
Achilles tendinitis can cause various symptoms, ranging from mild discomfort to severe pain. Recognising these signs is important for early diagnosis and effective management. Common symptoms of Achilles tendinitis include:
Diagnosing Achilles tendinitis typically involves a combination of a medical history assessment, physical examination, and, in some cases, imaging studies. Here’s how the diagnosis is typically made:
Your medical professional will begin by asking about your symptoms and their severity, including when they started.
The doctor may sometimes recommend imaging studies to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions. The most common imaging options include:
In rare instances, blood tests may be performed to check for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or gout, which can sometimes mimic the symptoms of Achilles tendinitis.
If left untreated or not managed properly, Achilles tendinitis can lead to various complications, some of which can be more severe and challenging to address. These complications include:
Achilles tendinitis can often be managed effectively with a combination of conservative treatments. The goal of treatment is to reduce pain and inflammation and promote healing of the affected tendon. Here are the common treatment options:
One of the most crucial steps in treating Achilles tendinitis is to rest and avoid activities that exacerbate the condition. This gives the tendon a chance to heal.
You may need to modify or reduce your physical activity, particularly high-impact activities like running and jumping.
Applying ice to the affected area can help reduce pain and inflammation. Use an ice pack wrapped in a thin cloth and apply it for 15-20 minutes several times daily, especially after activity.
Over-the-counter NSAIDs like ibuprofen or naproxen can help reduce pain and inflammation. Follow your medical professional’s recommendations for dosing.
A physical therapist can develop an exercise program to strengthen the calf muscles, improve flexibility, and correct any abnormalities in your gait that may contribute to the condition.
They may also use ultrasound, massage, and stretches to aid healing.
Custom orthotic shoe inserts or proper footwear with good arch support can reduce strain on the Achilles tendon. Your medical professional or a podiatrist can help with recommendations.
Eccentric exercises involve lowering your heel with resistance, which can help strengthen the Achilles tendon. These exercises should be done under the guidance of a physical therapist.
Wearing a night splint that keeps your foot flexed upward while you sleep can help prevent morning stiffness and reduce re-injury risk.
Sometimes, the medical professional may recommend using a cast or walking boot to immobilise the ankle and allow the tendon to heal without strain.
This non-invasive treatment uses shock waves to stimulate blood flow and promote healing in the affected area.
PRP therapy involves injecting a concentrated solution of your own blood platelets into the affected area to accelerate healing.
In some cases, the medical specialist may administer corticosteroid injections to reduce pain and inflammation. However, these are usually reserved for severe cases due to potential side effects.
Surgery is rarely needed for Achilles tendinitis but may be considered for severe or chronic cases, especially if there is a significant risk of tendon rupture. Surgical options include tendon debridement, tendon transfer, or removal of bone spurs.
Preventing Achilles tendinitis is key to maintaining healthy and pain-free ankles. Here are some strategies to reduce your risk of developing this condition:
Living with Achilles tendinitis can be challenging, but with the right approach and care, you can manage the condition and maintain a good quality of life. Here are some tips for living with Achilles tendinitis:
Suppose you’re struggling with Achilles tendinitis or suspect you might have this condition. In that case, we strongly encourage you to take action and request an appointment with The Orthopaedic Practice and Surgery Clinic. Our team of experts is dedicated to providing the utmost care and guidance to help you on your journey to recovery. Your health and mobility are worth the investment, so reach out to us today and take the first step towards a healthier, pain-free future—your well-being matters.