The following article is a guest post.
If you feel a painful swelling above your heel, then you might be suffering from Achilles tendonitis. This injury can occur to anyone whether you’re an athlete or an active person who engages in intense physical activities.
Achilles tendonitis is the inflammation or irritation of the Achilles tendon, the band of tissue that stretches from your heel bones to your calf muscles. This injury can either be mild or moderate. If you feel a severe pain, your Achilles tendon may be partially torn or fully ruptured.
There are actually two types of Achilles tendonitis, based on the inflamed portion of the tendon:
- Noninsertional Achilles Tendonitis. This type of injury happens when the fibers in the middle part of your tendon start to degenerate, swell, and thicken. Younger, active people are more prone to this type of tendon injury.
- Insertional Achilles Tendonitis. This type of injury occurs on the lower part of the heel. An extra bone growth often forms with this type of injury. This usually develops from years of overuse and can happen anytime even if you’re not active.
Are You at Risk?
The following determined risk factors can make you susceptible to this injury:
- Habits and lifestyle. Running in damaged shoes and on a hilly terrain can increase your risk of this tendon problem. Wearing high heels also puts too much stress your tendon. Studies have shown that people who are overweight and with high body-mass index (BMI) are also prone to Achilles tendonitis.
- Age. People above 30 years old are more prone to Achilles tendon injuries.
- Sex. Men are more vulnerable to this injury.
- Physical Issues. People with fallen arches or flat feet are predisposed to Achilles tendonitis. This means the arch of your foot collapses each time you take a step. Other physical issues associated with Achilles tendonitis include obesity and tight leg muscles.
- Medical Conditions. High blood pressure and psoriasis are two medical conditions that will increase your risk of Achilles tendonitis.
- Weather. Tendon irritation happens more often in cold weather.
- Medications. Certain medications like fluoroquinolones are being linked to Achilles tendonitis.
Causes of Achilles tendonitis
Achilles tendonitis is normally not linked to any particular injury. This health issue generates from intense or repetitive stress to the tendon. It is common for people who do certain sports that involve sudden acceleration and deceleration including basketball, volleyball, tennis, running, and football.
These injuries often occur when you push your bodies to work too much, abruptly. For example, a basketball player might do a crossover move to confuse his opponent. This quick motion can be intolerable for the tendon to manage.
Having an extra bone growth can also cause Achilles tendonitis especially if the bone growth happens in the spot where the Achilles tendon links to the heel bone. You’ll feel the pain when the bone spur rubs against the tendon.
Signs and symptoms of Achilles tendonitis
Symptoms of Achilles tendonitis start as a mild pain above your heel or the back of your leg after doing sports. The pain intensifies after you do any prolonged physical activity. Other signs and symptoms include:
- Stiffness or tenderness of the Achilles tendon, especially in the morning;
- Thickening of the tendon;
- Extra bone growth or bone spurs.
If you felt something snapped at the back of your heel and feel a persistent pain, you probably have a ruptured Achilles tendon. When this happens, seek medical help immediately.
Management of Achilles tendonitis:
To relieve the pain, you can do this self-care strategy also known as RICE.
- Rest. Avoid any activity that might strain your Achilles tendon. If you have a severe case, you can use crutches or wear a walking boot.
- Ice. Apply an ice pack on the Achilles tendon for about 15 minutes. This will reduce the swelling and pain in the area.
- Compression. To decrease swelling and limit the tendon’s movement, apply compressive elastic bandages or wraps.
- Elevation. Elevate your foot above your heart’s level to decrease swelling.
Doing some strength training exercises can speed up the healing process. You can also try wearing orthotic devices, like a shoe insert or wedge, to raise your heel slightly. The insert or wedge can provide additional support and cushion to the relieve strain on your heel and Achilles tendon.
When to seek medical treatment?
If the pain still persists after six months, then it’s time to seek medical help. Check your body temperature using a forehead thermometer and seek consultation immediately if the reading indicates a fever, which can be a sign of infection.
In most cases, Achilles tendonitis often occurs in athletes and people who participate in extreme recreational activities. Address Achilles tendonitis early before it becomes a recurring injury that limits your productivity.