What are the signs of Achilles Tendonitis?
Achilles tendonitis is a painful condition characterized by the inflammation of the Achilles tendon, however there are a number of symptoms associated with, and signs of Achilles tendonitis. Swelling, redness and warmth are just some of these symptoms. Achilles tendonitis occurs as a result of overuse of the foot or excessive use of the tendon, or micro-tear injury caused by repetitive use of a stressed tendon that is not allowed adequate time to heal. It is a common complaint amongst competitive athletes and recreational sportspeople alike. Achilles tendonitis may also occur in people not physically active. The condition can be described as either insertional or non-insertional tendonitis, depending on what signs of Achilles tendinitis are apparent, based on which part of the tendon is inflamed. Insertional tendonitis involves the bottom part of the heel, where the Achilles tendon attaches to the calcaneus. In cases of non-insertional Achilles tendonitis, the middle part of the tendon is involved.
What is the Achilles Tendon?
When you walk, run, climb stairs, jump, or stand on your tip-toes, your Achilles tendon is at work. Some of the symptoms and signs of Achilles tendonitis are the inhibition or great difficulty experienced when attempting to carry out these movements. The Achilles tendon is a thick, cord-like structure that runs down the back of the lower leg. The Achilles tendon’s purpose is to connect the muscles in the calf (the plantaris, gastrocnemius and soleus muscles) to the back of the heel bone (the calcaneus) of the foot.
What are the symptoms and signs of Achilles Tendonitis?
Some common symptoms and signs of Achilles tendonitis include:
- Stiffness and pain across the area where the Achilles tendon is located, particularly in the morning
- Pain along the back of the heel or in the area of the tendon that gets worse with physical activity
- Reduced strength and range of motion in the lower leg and/or ankle
- Pain that is severe the day after physical activity
- A lump or thickening at the back of the heel
- Swelling and redness at the back of the lower leg.
In cases of non-insertional Achilles tendonitis, there is breakdown and inflammation of the fibres in the middle part of the tendon. This is often visible with the naked eye, appearing as a thickened, raised swelling in the middle part of the tendon, toward the lower end of the leg. In non-insertional Achilles tendonitis, a swelling or a lump is visible at the base of the back of the leg, right at the back of the heel bone.
One of the other signs of Achilles tendonitis, or rather a consequence of the condition, is that the damaged tendon fibres may calcify, or harden. Bone spurs often form at the heel bone in cases of insertional Achilles tendonitis, as a result of this calcification.
If any of the symptoms or signs of Achilles tendonitis mentioned above are experienced, it is essential to seek medical attention. If in fact the patient has developed Achilles tendonitis, proper timely treatment under the guidance of an appropriately qualified sports podiatrist will usually allow the patient to return to exercise within a few weeks. If the pain is ignored and improperly managed, Achilles tendinopathy may result, which is a chronic degenerative condition, requiring much more rigorous treatment. In some severe degenerative cases, Achilles rupture may eventuate, which has significantly longer recovery times and generally much poorer recovery outcomes.
Until the patient can seek medical advice, they can be proactive towards treating their signs of Achilles tendonitis by implementing the RICE procedure:
- Rest – keep off the painful foot as much as possible
- Ice – apply an ice pack for 20 minutes at a time to reduce swelling at the site of the pain
- Compression – use an elastic bandage to apply comfortable, firm pressure to the injured leg or wrap it with a towel
- Elevation – elevate the sore leg so that it is above the level of the heart, which helps to reduce swelling.
What are the risk factors for developing signs of Achilles tendonitis?
Achilles tendonitis can occur in anyone, however certain factors can increase the likelihood of developing the condition. Some of these factors include:
- Gender: Achilles tendonitis of more common in men than women
- Age: risk of developing Achilles tendonitis increases with age
- Overweight and obesity: increased risk with increasing bodyweight
- Over pronating or flat-feet: a flatter arch puts more pressure on the Achilles tendon
- Tight calf muscles: lead to increased tendon strain
- Sudden changes to training schedule: particularly a sudden increase in intensity or duration of exercise, or the addition of exercises that require explosive movements, such as box jumps, pivoting or burpees
- Medications: taking some medications, namely fluoroquinolone antibiotics are associated with higher rates of Achilles tendonitis.
Please bear in mind that the information provided in the article above should not be taken as general advice and is for informational purposes only. If you are experiencing any signs of Achilles tendonitis, or you think that you may have a tendon injury, you should consult with a suitably qualified sports podiatrist to discuss your individual situation. You can make an appointment by emailing email@example.com or by calling 02 82110600.
Karl Lockett– sports podiatrist.