Achilles Tendinitis or Tendonitis is a painful inflammation of the heel cord i.e. the Achilles tendon which is the strongest tendon in the human body. The Achilles tendon is responsible for connecting the leg muscles to the foot. It also gives our toes the ability to rise upwards thus facilitating walking.
Achilles Tendonitis has three basic stages of inflammation ““
- Peritenonitis ““ In this stage, patients feel pain during an activity or following it.
- Tendinosis ““ This is a degenerative stage that doesn’t not have any obvious symptoms. However in some cases, it may cause swelling or nodulation at the back of the leg.
- Peritendonitis with tendinosis ““ This stage is a combination of both pain at activity and asymptomatic degeneration. This stage would finally result complete or partial rupture of the Achilles tendon.
Causes of Achilles Tendonitis
Achilles tendonitis often results from a sudden or repeated overstressing of the Achilles tendon. This stress may eventually lead to tearing of the Achilles tendon over time. Poorly conditioned sportspersons, athletes and arthritis patients are at a high risk of developing Achilles tendonitis. Achilles tendonitis can also be seen as a result of congenital foot flatness that leads to frequent twisting of legs causing trauma to the Achilles tendon.
In women who wear high heels the Achilles tendon and the lower leg muscles adapt to the shoes that prevent the heel from stretching all the way to the ground level. When they switch to flat shoes Achilles tendon stretches more than it is used to and this results in pain and inflammation.
Most of the patients develop Achilles tendonitis over a long period of time due to repeated stress.
Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis
Achilles tendonitis develops over a long period of time. It may first start off with mild pain that worsens with continuous stress and activity. This gradually leads to the rupture or tearing of the Achilles tendon. The rupture could either by complete or partial but nonetheless it results in severe pain and trauma making it almost impossible to walk.
Treatment of Achilles Tendonitis
Depending on the severity of the injury the patients are treated. The doctor would firstly advise you to discontinue the activity that causes heel pain, swelling, tenderness or discomfort at the back of your lower leg.
The doctor will also suggest you stretching and training techniques. You will be advised to rest your tendon while keeping it elevated and apply ice packs to it to reduce swelling if any. You may also be advised to keep your ankle and foot firmly compressed in an elastic bandage.
You may also be prescribed non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen as pain killers to reduce swelling, discomfort and inflammation.
If the Achilles tendon is badly ruptured or torn away, you may be suggested a surgery that involves the removal of inflamed outer covering of the tendon and the reattachment of the torn tissues.
After the surgery you will have to undergo rehabilitation with motion physiotherapy and strengthening exercises for three odd weeks.Â You may be able to resume your usual activities after 6-10 weeks. However, if you are into competitive sports, you may have to wait about 3-6 months before you get back into action.