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The very act of moving takes the coordination of a great many parts of our body. Muscles move bones, but tendons provide the connections between the two. When everything is in top shape, the body runs painlessly like a well-oiled machine. That isn’t always the case, though, and problems such as Achilles tendinitis can represent too much stress being placed on your mechanics.
The Achilles is the body’s largest tendon, connecting the heel bone to the calf muscles. It’s an important part of walking, running, and jumping, so it might not come as a surprise that it can commonly face injury.
Achilles tendinitis occurs when the namesake tendon becomes inflamed, most frequently through repetitive stress or being overstretched. The condition is divided into two separate forms: noninsertional Achilles tendinitis in the middle section of the tendon, and insertional Achilles tendinitis in the lower section of the heel (where it attaches or “inserts” against the heel bone).
Symptoms of Achilles inflammation include pain and stiffness along the back of the heel that gets worse with activity, and is often followed by severe pain the next day. The tendon can also thicken and show signs of swelling.
There can be many factors at play when it comes to the reason someone has developed tendinitis. One of the most common causes is a sudden increase in the intensity and length of physical activity without giving the body proper time to adjust. Examples include adding on too many miles to a running routine too quickly, or driving too hard during a weekend basketball game when weeks are spent more sedentary. The Achilles simply isn’t given enough opportunity to strengthen itself for the added stress, and instead develops small tears.
Additional causes for Achilles inflammation include tight calf muscles that place too much steady stress on the tendon, or a bone spur that can rub against the tendon and cause trouble. Men overall are more likely to suffer from Achilles tendinitis than women, as are those who train in colder weather and on hilly terrain.
When coming in for an examination for heel pain, it can help to recall your recent history of physical activity and when you first noticed the problems developing. This can help pinpoint the problem and its cause. If tendinitis is suspected, an imaging test might be conducted in some cases to confirm the location or severity.
Many mild cases of tendinitis will respond well to simple rest of the affected area, with ice and some anti-inflammatory pain medication for comfort. Exercises might also be recommended to help strengthen surrounding muscles to put less stress on the tendon. Even in mild cases, however, the Achilles may still take several months to fully heal, so patience and discretion in activity will be necessary.
Other treatments might include the use of custom-made orthotics or physical therapy, depending on one’s pain and individual needs. In severe cases, where pain does not improve after 6 months of treatment, surgery to repair the tendon or provide relief may become a consideration.
If you are suffering from flare-ups of heel pain during activity, don’t continue risking further damage. Stop what you’re doing and call the office of Dr. Kevin Powers at (812) 333-4422. Whether it’s tendinitis or another condition, we’re here to help the people of Bloomington, Bedford, and all surrounding areas get moving in comfort again.