Achilles tendinitis is an uncomfortable
condition where a person?s large tendon in the back of their ankle becomes irritated and inflamed. It is a very common type of injury, most often seen in recreational athletes. This makes sense
because recreational athletes still play hard at their sports, but don?t have the full knowledge or training that comes with being a professional to prevent injuries. Achilles tendon pain is not
something to be taken lightly, so if you are aware of your own, you should definitely seek some medical advice.
The Achilles tendon is a strong band of connective tissue that attaches the calf muscle to the heel bone. When the muscle contracts, the tendon transmits the power of this contraction to the heel,
producing movement. The Achilles tendon moves through a protective sheath and is made up of thousands of tiny fibres. It is thought that Achilles tendonitis develops when overuse of the tendon causes
the tiny fibres that make up the tendon to tear. This causes inflammation, pain and swelling. As the tendon swells it can begin to rub against the sheath surrounding it, irritating the sheath and
causing it too to become inflamed and swollen. It has a poor blood supply, which can make it susceptible to injury and can make recovery from injury slow. Factors that can lead to the development of
Achilles tendonitis include, tight or weak calf muscles, rapidly increasing the amount or intensity of exercise. Hill climbing or stair climbing exercises. Changes in footwear, particularly changing
from wearing high-heeled shoes to wearing flat shoes. Wearing inadequate or inappropriate shoes for the sporting activity being undertaken. Not adequately warming up and stretching prior to exercise.
A sudden sharp movement that causes the calf muscles to contract and the stress on the Achilles tendon to be increased. This can cause the tendon fibres to tear.
In most cases, symptoms of Achilles tendonitis, also sometimes called Achilles tendinitis, develop gradually. Pain may be mild at first and worsen with continued activity. Repeated or continued
stress on the Achilles tendon increases inflammation and may cause it to rupture. Partial or complete rupture results in traumatic damage and severe pain, making walking virtually impossible and
requiring a long recovery period. Patients with tendinosis may experience a sensation of fullness in the back of the lower leg or develop a hard knot of tissue (nodule).
X-rays are usually normal in patients with Achilles tendonitis, but are performed to evaluate for other possible conditions. Occasionally, an MRI is needed to evaluate a patient for tears within the
tendon. If there is a thought of surgical treatment an MRI may be helpful for preoperative evaluation and planning.
The aim of the treatment is to reduce strain on the tendon and reduce inflammation. Strain may be reduced by, avoiding or severely limiting activities that may aggravate the condition, such as
running, using shoe inserts (orthoses) to take pressure off the tendon as it heals. In cases of flat or hyperpronated feet, your doctor or podiatrist may recommend long-term use of orthoses.
I8nflammation may be reduced by, applying icepacks for 20 minutes per hour during the acute stage, taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, placing the foot in a cast or restrictive ankle-boot
to minimise movement and give the tendon time to heal. This may be recommended in severe cases and used for about eight weeks. Occasionally depot (slowly absorbed) steroid injections may be tried,
particularly for peri-tendinitis, but great care needs to be taken to avoid injecting into the tendon. This should only be done by a specialist doctor. You may also be given specific exercises to
gently stretch the calf muscles once the acute stage of inflammation has settled down. Your doctor or physiotherapist will recommend these exercises when you are on the road to recovery. Recovery is
often slow and will depend on the severity of the condition and how carefully you follow the treatment and care instructions you are given.
Open Achilles Tendon Surgery is the traditional Achilles tendon surgery and remains the 'gold standard' of surgery treatments. During this procedure one long incision (10 to 17 cm in length) is made
slightly on an angle on the back on your lower leg/heel. An angled incision like this one allows for the patient's comfort during future recovery during physical therapy and when transitioning back
into normal footwear. Open surgery is performed to provide the surgeon with better visibility of the Achilles tendon. This visibility allows the surgeon to remove scar tissue on the tendon,
damaged/frayed tissue and any calcium deposits or bone spurs that have formed in the ankle joint. Once this is done, the surgeon will have a full unobstructed view of the tendon tear and can
precisely re-align/suture the edges of the tear back together. An open incision this large also provides enough room for the surgeon to prepare a tendon transfer if it's required. When repairing the
tendon, non-absorbale sutures may be placed above and below the tear to make sure that the repair is as strong as possible. A small screw/anchor is used to reattach the tendon back to the heel bone
if the Achilles tendon has been ruptured completely. An open procedure with precise suturing improves overall strength of your Achilles tendon during the recovery process, making it less likely to
re-rupture in the future.
Achilles tendinitis cannot always be prevented but the following tips will help you reduce your risk. If you are new to a sport, gradually ramp up your activity level to your desired intensity and
duration. If you experience pain while exercising, stop. Avoid strenuous activity that puts excessive stress on your Achilles tendon. If you have a demanding workout planned, warm up slowly and
thoroughly. Always exercise in shoes that are in good condition and appropriate for your activity or sport. Be sure to stretch your calf muscles and Achilles tendon before and after working out. If
you suffer from Achilles tendinitis make sure you treat it properly and promptly. If self-care techniques don?t work, don?t delay. Book a consultation with a foot care expert or you may find yourself
sidelined from your favourite sports and activities.