What is Achilles tendinitis?
Achilles tendinitis is inflammation of the tendon that connects your calf muscles to your heel.
What causes Achilles tendinitis?
- Overuse: Achilles tendinitis can be caused by any activity that puts stress on your Achilles tendon. Tendinitis can develop if you run or jump more than usual or exercise on a hard surface.
- Poor fitting shoes: Tendinitis can be caused by shoes that do not fit or support your foot and ankle.
- Tight tendons and muscles: You may have tight hamstring and calf muscles in your upper and lower leg. Your tendons also become stiffer and easier to injure as you get older.
- Arthritis: Bony growths caused by arthritis can irritate the Achilles tendon, especially around your heel.
What are the signs and symptoms of Achilles tendinitis?
- Pain where your tendon connects to your heel
- Inflammation and stiffness in the tendon, especially after periods of rest
How is Achilles tendinitis diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will do a physical exam of your leg and ankle. He will ask questions about your recent physical activities.
How is Achilles tendinitis treated?
- NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
- Steroid injections: Steroids decrease pain and swelling. After you get this shot, you may feel like your Achilles tendon is healed. Do not return to your regular exercise until your healthcare provider says it is okay. You could make the tendinitis worse, or even tear the tendon.
- Surgery: If your tendinitis does not heal with other treatments, you may need surgery. Surgery may be done to repair a tear in the tendon, or to remove parts of the tendon.
How can I manage my Achilles tendinitis?
- Rest: The most important way to manage Achilles tendinitis is to rest. Rest decreases swelling and keeps your tendinitis from getting worse. You may feel pain when you begin to run or exercise. The pain usually goes away as your muscles warm up, but it may come back. Your healthcare provider may tell you to stop your usual training or exercise activities. He may give you other exercises to do until your Achilles tendon heals.
- Ice: Ice decreases swelling and pain. Put ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Put this on your Achilles tendon for 15 to 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times each day. Do this for 2 to 3 days or until the pain goes away.
- Heat: After 2 or 3 days, you may use heat to decrease pain and stiffness. Use a hot water bottle, heating pad, whirlpool, or warm compress. To make a compress, soak a clean washcloth in warm water. Wring out the extra water and put it on your Achilles tendon 15 to 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times each day.
- Physical therapy: Stretching and making the muscles stronger may help decrease stress on your Achilles tendon. Physical therapists can teach you exercises and treatments to help your tendinitis heal faster.
- Foot and ankle support: You may need to wear inserts in your shoes. You may need to wrap tape around your heel and back of the leg. You may need to wear a cast, brace, or support boot.
How can I prevent Achilles tendinitis?
- Wear shoes that fit correctly and support your feet: Replace your running or exercise shoes before the padding or shock absorption wears out. Shock absorption greatly decreases as the treads on the bottoms or sides of your shoes begin to wear down. You may need running shoes that give your foot more heel or arch support. You may need shoe inserts to keep your foot from rolling inward.
- Stretch before you exercise: Always warm up your muscles and stretch gently before you exercise. Do cool down exercises when you are finished. This will loosen your muscles and decrease stress on your Achilles tendon.
- Exercise the right way: If your tendinitis is caused by the way that you exercise, ask a trainer, coach, or your healthcare provider for help. They can teach you ways to train or exercise to help prevent Achilles tendinitis. Do not run or exercise on uneven or hard surfaces. Instead, run on softer surfaces such as treadmills, rubber tracks, grass, or evenly packed dirt tracks.
When should I contact my healthcare provider?
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- Your pain and swelling increase.
- You have questions about your condition or care.
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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