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Achilles Tendinitis: What You Need to Know

Updated: Apr 5, 2023

The Achilles tendon is the most powerful tendon in the human body and can withstand forces of 1,000 pounds or more. But it is also one of the most frequently injured. Whether you’re a professional or weekend athlete, you may be at risk for overuse injuries such as Achilles tendinitis. To protect your Achilles and keep it healthy, it’s important to understand what causes this condition and how to prevent and treat it. Let’s take a closer look.

What is Achilles Tendinitis?

Achilles tendinitis is an overuse injury and inflammation of the Achilles tendon—the band of tissue that connects your calf muscles to your heel bone. It often occurs in athletes who run and jump a lot, particularly if they don’t warm up properly beforehand. This condition can range from mild discomfort to severe pain that can interfere with your ability to exercise or even walk comfortably.

Events that can cause Achilles tendinitis may include:

  • Hill running or stair climbing.

  • Overuse resulting from the natural lack of flexibility in the calf muscles.

  • Rapidly increasing mileage or speed.

  • Starting up too quickly after a layoff.

  • Trauma caused by sudden and/or hard contraction of the calf muscles when putting out extra effort such as in a final sprint.

Signs & Symptoms of Achilles Tendinitis

If you have Achilles tendinitis, you may experience swelling or tenderness in the back of your leg above your heel; this area will likely be very sensitive to touch. You may also notice that the affected area feels stiff when you first wake up in the morning. Other signs include pain when walking uphill, running, or jumping; difficulty stretching your calf muscle; and a popping or cracking sound when flexing your foot or ankle.

Achilles tendinitis often begins with mild pain after exercise or running that gradually worsens. Other symptoms include:

  • Recurring localized pain, sometimes severe, along the tendon during or a few hours after running.

  • Morning tenderness about an inch and a half above the point where the Achilles tendon is attached to the heel bone.

  • Sluggishness in your leg.

  • Mild or severe swelling.

  • Stiffness that generally diminishes as the tendon warms up with use.

Treatment & Prevention Tips for Achilles Tendinitis

The best way to treat Achilles tendinitis is with rest—you should avoid activities that cause pain until the area has had time to heal properly. You can also use ice packs on the affected area for 15 minutes at a time several times per day; this will help reduce inflammation and relieve some of the pain associated with this condition. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen can also help reduce swelling and discomfort. If these treatments don’t provide relief within 48 hours, consult a doctor immediately as more serious complications may be present.

Treatment normally includes:

  • A bandage specifically designed to restrict motion of the tendon.

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication.

  • Orthoses, which are devices to help support the muscle and relieve stress on the tendon such as a heel pad or shoe insert.

  • Rest, and switching to another exercise, such as swimming, that does not stress the tendon.

  • Stretching, massage, ultrasound and appropriate exercises to strengthen the weak muscle group in front of the leg and the upward foot flexors.

  • In extreme cases, surgery is performed to remove the fibrous tissue and repair any tears.

To prevent future cases of Achilles tendinitis, make sure you warm up properly before any physical activity—stretching gently before a workout can go a long way toward keeping your muscles supple and flexible. You should also wear supportive shoes during exercise since worn-out shoes won't provide enough cushioning for your feet as you move around. Finally, remember to listen to your body—if something doesn't feel right, stop moving immediately and take some time off from physical activity until you're feeling better again!

Achilles tendinitis is an overuse injury that can cause significant pain and stiffness in the back of your leg above your heel—it's especially common among athletes who engage in lots of running and jumping activities without proper warmups. Fortunately, with proper rest combined with ice packs on the affected areas several times per day plus anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen (if needed) this condition can usually be treated successfully without any major complications arising. To prevent future cases of Achilles tendinitis always make sure you warm up before physical activities, wear supportive shoes during exercise, and listen carefully to what your body is telling you! Taking these precautions will help ensure that both professional athletes and weekend warriors alike stay safe while having fun!

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