Achilles Tendonitis is a term that commonly refers to an inflammation of the Achilles tendon or its covering. It is an overuse injury that is common especially to joggers and
jumpers, due to the repetitive action and so may occur in other activities that requires the same repetitive action. Most experts now use the term Achilles tendinopathy to include both inflammation
and micro-tears. But many doctors may still use the term tendonitis out of habit.
Although a specific incident of overstretching can cause an Achilles tendon disorder, these injuries typically result from a gradually progressive overload of the Achilles tendon or its attachment to
bone. The cause of this chronic overload is usually a combination of factors that can put excess stress on the tendon: being overweight, having a tight calf muscle, standing or walking for a long
period of time, wearing excessively stiff or flat footwear, or engaging in significant sports activity.
There are several types of Achilles tendinitis symptoms, but all of them are closely related. People who suffer from Achilles tendon pain typically have swelling in the Achilles tendon, and that pain
can be chronic as the microscopic tears in the area become more prevalent over time. The most intense pain is typically located just a few centimeters above the area where the tendon meets the heel.
This area is called the watershed zone, and the amount of blood moving through it is what gives it the highest potential for injury, especially for athletes. Most of the Achilles tendinitis symptoms
in people with the condition will happen immediately after they have been inactive for a fairly significant amount of time. That means that the most pain will generally be felt after sitting or lying
down for an extended period, or right after waking up in the morning and getting moving. If you aren?t positive that you are suffering specifically from Achilles tendinitis symptoms, consult a doctor
to make sure.
A podiatrist can usually make the diagnosis by clinical history and physical examination alone. Pain with touching or stretching the tendon is typical. There may also be a visible swelling to the
tendon. The patient frequently has difficulty plantarflexing (pushing down the ball of the foot and toes, like one would press on a gas pedal), particularly against resistance. In most cases X-rays
don't show much, as they tend to show bone more than soft tissues. But X-rays may show associated degeneration of the heel bone that is common with Achilles Tendon problems. For example, heel spurs,
calcification within the tendon, avulsion fractures, periostitis (a bruising of the outer covering of the bone) may all be seen on X-ray. In cases where we are uncertain as to the extent of the
damage to the tendon, though, an MRI scan may be necessary, which images the soft tissues better than X-rays. When the tendon is simply inflamed and not severely damaged, the problem may or may not
be visible on MRI. It depends upon the severity of the condition.
The initial aim of the treatment in acute cases is to reduce strain on the tendon and reduce inflammation until rehabilitation can begin. This may involve, avoiding or severely limiting activities
that may aggravate the condition, such as running or uphill climbs. Using shoe inserts (orthoses) to take pressure off the tendon. Wear supportive shoes. Reducing Inflammation by icing. Taking
non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Heel cups and heel lifts can be used temporarily to take pressure off the tendon, but must not be used long term as it can lead to a shortening of the calf.
Calf Compression Sleeves. Placing the foot in a cast or restrictive ankle-boot to minimize movement and give the tendon time to heal. This may be recommended in severe cases and used for about eight
Surgery is an option of last resort. However, if friction between the tendon and its covering sheath makes the sheath thick and fibrous, surgery to remove the fibrous tissue and repair any tears may
be the best treatment option.
Regardless of whether the Achilles injury is insertional or non-insertional, a great method for lessening stress on the Achilles tendon is flexor digitorum longus exercises. This muscle, which
originates along the back of the leg and attaches to the tips of the toes, lies deep to the Achilles. It works synergistically with the soleus muscle to decelerate the forward motion of the leg
before the heel leaves the ground during propulsion. This significantly lessens strain on the Achilles tendon as it decelerates elongation of the tendon. Many foot surgeons are aware of the
connection between flexor digitorum longus and the Achilles tendon-surgical lengthening of the Achilles (which is done to treat certain congenital problems) almost always results in developing hammer
toes as flexor digitorum longus attempts to do the job of the recently lengthened tendon. Finally, avoid having cortisone injected into either the bursa or tendon-doing so weakens the tendon as it
shifts production of collagen from type one to type three. In a recent study published in the Journal of Bone Joint Surgery(9), cortisone was shown to lower the stress necessary to rupture the
Achilles tendon, and was particularly dangerous when done on both sides, as it produced a systemic effect that further weakened the tendon.