What is achilles tendinitis?
Achilles tendinitis is inflammation, irritation, and swelling of the Achilles tendon (the tendon that connects the muscles of the calf to the heel). There are two large muscles in the calf, the gastrocnemius and soleus. These muscles generate the power for pushing off with the foot or going up on the toes. The large Achilles tendon connects these muscles to the heel. These
are important muscles for walking. This tendon can become inflamed, most commonly as a result of overuse or arthritis, although inflammation can also be associated with trauma and infection.
Achilles tendonitis affects the Achilles tendon, the large ropelike tendon attached to the heel bone at the back of the foot. Achilles tendonitis is caused most often by overuse, especially in sports that require running or repetitive jumping, and it accounts for 15 percent of all running injuries. Achilles tendonitis also may be related to faulty running technique or to poorly fitting shoes, if the back of the shoe digs into the Achilles tendon above the heel. Less often, Achilles tendonitis is related to an inflammatory illness, such as ankylosing spondylitis, Reiter's syndrome, gout or rheumatoid arthritis. Tendinitis due to overuse is most common in younger individuals and can occur in walkers, runners, or other athletes, especially in sports like basketball that involve jumping. Jumping places a large amount of stress on the Achilles tendon. Tendinitis from arthritis is more common in the middle aged and elderly population. Arthritis often causes extra bony growths around joints, and if this occurs around the heel where the Achilles tendon attaches to the heel bone, the tendon can become inflamed and painful.
Symptoms usually include pain in the affected heel when walking or running. The tendon is usually painful to touch and the skin over the tendon may be swollen and warm. Achilles tendinitis may predispose the patient to achilles rupture. Patients who experience this usually describe the injury as a sharp pain, like someone hit them in the back of the heel with a stick. On physical exam, a doctor will look for tenderness along the tendon and for pain in the area of the tendon when the patient stands on their toes. Imaging studies can also be helpful. X-rays can help diagnose arthritis and an MRI will demonstrate inflammation in the tendon.
The Achilles tendon has a relatively poor blood supply, and this accounts for the longer time these injuries often take to heal. Early treatment is necessary to prevent chronic injury. The initial treatment for Achilles tendonitis is usually non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like aspirin and ibuprofen, and physical therapy to stretch the muscle-tendon unit and strengthen the muscles of the calf. In addition, any activity that aggravates the symptoms needs to be limited. Occasionally, casting is used to immobilize the heel and allow the inflammation to quiet down. Functional braces or boots have also been used to limit ankle motion and help with inflammation. If conservative treatment fails to improve symptoms, surgery may become necessary to remove inflamed tissue from around the tendon and to remove any part of the tendon that has become abnormal. Prevention of Achilles tendonitis includes stretching the calf muscles and Achilles tendons carefully before doing vigorous activities. If the Achilles tendons or calf muscles are especially tight, it is a good idea to stretch them twice a day whether or not sports activities are planned that day.
More information on tendinitis
What is tendinitis? - Tendinitis is inflammation, irritation, and swelling of a tendon, which is the fibrous structure that joins muscle to bone.
What causes tendinitis? - Tendinitis can occur as a result of injury, overuse, or with aging as the tendon loses elasticity. It can also be seen in systemic diseases.
What're the symptoms of tendinitis? - Tendinitis causes pain over the affected tendon. Tendonitis produces pain in the tissues surrounding a joint.
How is tendinitis diagnosed? - Careful pressure testing and movement of the parts is all that is necessary to identify the tendinitis. There are specific tests for specific tendons.
What is the treatment for tendinitis? - The goal of treatment for tendinitis is to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Rest or immobilization of the affected tendons is helpful for recovery.
What is achilles tendinitis? - Achilles tendinitis is inflammation, irritation, and swelling of the Achilles tendon (the tendon that connects the muscles of the calf to the heel).
What is patellar tendonitis? - Patellar tendonitis (jumper's knee) is a condition characterized by inflammation of the patellar tendon, which connects the kneecap to shin bone.
What is tennis elbow? - Tennis elbow is an inflammation, soreness, or pain on the outside (lateral) side of the upper arm near the elbow.
What is shoulder tendonitis? - Shoulder tendonitis is an inflammation (irritation and swelling) of the tendons of the shoulder.