Your Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in your body, attaching your heel to the calf muscle. You can see it protrude when you look at the back of your heel. Your Achilles tendon is essential for walking, and is used when you push off to walk or run or when you stand on your toes.
When it occurs, Achilles tendinitis can be mild, moderate or severe, making it painful to exercise, walk, or climb stairs.
Achilles Tendinitis Causes
Achilles tendinitis is a relatively common injury, most commonly occurring with stop/start/pivot sports such as running, football, baseball, basketball, tennis and volleyball but can happen to anyone.
The injury most commonly occurs from repetitive pushing off as when jumping or sprinting. The tendon gets overloaded and pain results. Men over 30 are move likely to suffer Achilles tendinitis. Other risk factors include tight leg muscles, particularly in the lower leg, wearing high heels, exercising in worn shoes, and flat feet.
You will feel pain when moving your ankle or standing on your toes as when performing a calf raise. The condition may start as a mild pain above your heel after exercise and may progress if left untreated. There may be swelling. If you feel this kind of pain above your heel after exercise don’t ignore it — it’s a symptom that needs to be dealt with.
In severe cases the tendon can rupture, causing severe pain, bruising, and swelling. When this happens you may hear a snapping or popping sound. If you doctor suspects you have ruptured your Achilles tendon he or she may perform a calf squeeze test to verify the diagnosis.
You’ll be asked to kneel on a bench with your stomach on the exam table. The doctor will squeeze your calf, and if the tendon is attached this would normally cause your foot to move. If it doesn’t it’s a sign that the tendon has ruptured.
Treatment And Prevention
If the injury is not severe, Achilles tendinitis usually resolves itself. Discontinue any exercise and follow the RICE protocol — rest the leg, ice it 20 minutes on and off, use a compression bandage to limit the swelling and elevate the leg. Anti-inflammatory drugs may help with the pain and swelling.
Depending on the severity of the injury it may take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months to heal. It’s important to let the injury heal completely before resuming explosive stop/start/pivot sports. Make sure you can move your injured leg as freely as the uninjured one and there is no pain when starting, stopping, jumping and pivoting.
Wear good quality shoes with arch support when exercising and warm up with calf stretches before and exercise to avoid recurring injury.
How Apex Can Help
If you have pain above your heel after exercise or have been diagnosed with Achilles tendinitis the health professionals at the Apex Centre can help speed your recovery. Massage therapy, therapeutic ultrasound, and shockwave therapy may be used to help regenerate injured tissue and speed recovery. In addition, we can help design an exercise regimen that will add strength and flexibility to your Achilles tendon, lessening the risk of future injury.