Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis is a form of tendonitis that affects the Achilles tendon, also known at the heel cord. The Achilles tendon is the strongest and largest tendon in the body. The tendon runs down the back of your lower leg from the back of the knee to the heel. The Achilles tendon enables us to walk, without it we would not be able to raise our heels of the ground.

Achilles Tendonitis Causes & Risks

Athletes that participate in sports that involve sudden starts and stops (egg: squash, tennis, basketball, football, baseball) are in the high risk category for developing Achilles tendonitis. In particular, athletes that that are not conditioned properly for their sport. The risks of developing the condition are increased if the athlete does not wear the correct footwear or the ground surface is uneven or slippery.

In many cases, Achilles tendonitis will develop as a result of an individual undertaking a stressful activity without warming up or "overdoing it". People who don't exercise often then start a strenuous exercise program are at very high risk. After a period of inactivity tendons are usually stiff and not very flexible. Stretching and taking it easy at first will prevent Achilles tendonitis in these cases.

Women who wear high-heeled shoes are also at risk. As women wear high heeled shoes the Achilles tendon adapts and becomes shorter. When the woman then switches to flat-heeled the Achilles tendon is stretched and can become inflamed. To avoid this, stretching should be done in the morning before the high-heeled shoes are put on.

The final, and very rare, cause of Achilles tendonitis is congenital condition. This means that the individual is born with the condition.

Achilles Tendonitis Symptoms

The symptoms of Achilles tendonitis usually develop gradually and can occur during and after stressful activities. Pain is usually mild at first but will get worse if the tendon is stressed further. If the Achilles tendon is pushed too much it may rupture.

Here are some warning signs that the condition is developing:

  • Pain in the Achilles tendon during or after exercise
  • Swelling or the area surrounding the tendon
  • Redness and irritation on the skin around the Achilles tendon
  • Pain in the tendon when walking (especially up hills)
  • Stiffness and inability to stretch the Achilles tendon without pain
  • Stiffness of the tendon in the morning
  • You may feel a "cracking" sensation when the tendon is under pressure
  • You may feel one or all of these symptoms

Achilles Tendonitis Treatment

The Achilles tendonitis treatment depends of the severity of the condition. The list below contains the various treatment options available. If you use the techniques on list below and the pain still persists or gets worse, you're advised to seek professional medical advice as soon as possible. Further Achilles tendonitis treatment may be required.

  • Rest and apply R.I.C.E treatment (Rest, Isolation, compression, Elevation)
  • Put your lower leg on a soft surface (a pillow is ideal) when you're laying down
  • Wear a heal pad that slightly raises your heel
  • Take anti-inflammatory medication

In severe cases of Achilles tendonitis the leg may be required to be put in a cast for several weeks. And in very extreme cases, surgery is required. These cases are usually rare and lengthy rehabilitation is required before full movement is allowed.

Bottom line, the most important part of Achilles tendonitis treatment is rest. If you start to feel a pain in the Achilles tendon, rest and apply R.I.C.E immediately. You should repeat this process if the pain does not subside.

Prevention of Achilles Tendonitis

Preventing Achilles tendonitis is very simple. Your best defense against developing the condition is to warm up and stretch before activities and don't overdo it. Before you attempt any strenuous activity you should warm up for 5-10 minutes. Some light jogging or jumping on the spot will be enough.

During physical activity don't push yourself too hard. Know your limits. If you start feeling any pain in your Achilles tendon stops the activity and start applying R.I.C.E.

Wearing the correct footwear is also important for preventing Achilles tendonitis. Your shoes must be designed for your sport and have adequate heel support.

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