Achilles tendonitis: Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Achilles tendinitis refers to injury to the Achilles tendon due to its overuse. The Achilles tendon is a tough fibrous band of tissue that runs down the back of the lower leg connecting the calf muscles to the heel bone.

Achilles tendinitis is most likely to occur in marathon runners or athletes who have suddenly or drastically increased their duration or intensity of their runs. This injury is also common in adolescents who engage in sports activities such as basketball or tennis – only on the weekends.Achilles tendonitis

Treatment for most cases or Achilles tendinitis is relatively simple and can be done with home-care methods under your doctor’s supervision. It is important that athletes follow certain self-care techniques to also prevent such injuries from taking place.

Severe cases of Achilles tendinitis that result in tears or ruptures of the Achilles tendons may require surgery to repair the damage.

Disclaimer: the material posted on this page on Achilles tendinitis is for learning purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage these injuries and more register for workplace approved first aid training.

Signs and symptoms

Upon the onset of the injury, you may feel a mild ache at the back of the affected leg or above the heel area after weight bearing, running or any other sports activity. You may experience bouts of severe pain especially after prolonged weight bearing activities such as running, sprinting, jumping or stair climbing.

Additional symptoms include tenderness or stiffness in the affected region, especially in the morning when you make the first steps. However, pain and other symptoms often improve with rest or mild activity.

When to seek medical help

Seek medical help if you experience persistent pain around the affected region or the Achilles tendon. Seek immediate medical care if you are unable to walk, run or perform activity or pain as this may signify an Achilles tendon rupture which is usually treated with surgery.

Causes

Achilles tendinitis occurs as a result of intense or repetitive stress to the Achilles tendon. The structure of the Achilles tendon normally weakens as a person grows older, making him more susceptible to injury especially if he engages in sports activity only during the weekends and suddenly increases his activity levels.

Treatment

Self-care treatment involves the R.I.C.E. regime:

  • Rest. Following the injury, you may have to avoid physical activity that may trigger symptoms for several days. You may be instructed to resume mild, no or low impact exercises that do not strain your tendon such as cycling or swimming. In severe cases, you may have to apply a splint, wear a walking boot and use a cane or crutches.
  • Ice. Icing the affected region using an ice pack for around 15 minutes when you experience pain or after exercise may improve symptoms.
  • Compress. Use a compressive elastic bandage to wrap the affected region in order to reduce swelling and restrict movement of the tendon.
  • Elevate. Raise the affected foot above heart level, especially while you rest or sleep at night to reduce swelling.

Additional treatment methods may include taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen to reduce pain and swelling.

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