It's a rule of thumb, the more you use something the more likely it is to deteriorate— and more quickly too. Car tires, running shoes, and even feet are no exception to this rule. In fact, the majority of complications with the feet and ankles are due to overuse. Even the largest tendon in your body can fall victim. The Achilles tendon connects your calf muscle to your heel bone and is used while walking, running, and jumping. Despite its size and resilience, overuse can make this tendon susceptible to tendinitis and degeneration.
Tired Tendons and Inflammation
Shooting pain that runs along the back of your leg and near your heel can be attributed to tired tendons. When the Achilles tendon is overworked, it becomes inflamed and painful, as a natural response to injury. You may feel a dull ache in the back of your leg, especially after sports-related activities. Pain is often most severe after prolonged running, stair climbing, or sprinting.
There are two types of Achilles tendinitis, based upon which part of the tendon is swollen. Non-insertional tendinitis refers to the middle section of the tendon where tiny tears have begun to appear. This degeneration commonly affects the younger population and those who are very active, causing swelling and thickening of the tendon. Conversely, insertional tendinitis affects the lower portion of the heel, where the tendon attaches to the heel bone.
Most cases of tendinitis can be cared for at home under your doctor’s supervision. The structure of the tendon weakens with age and most frequently appears in middle-aged men. Risk factors for developing Achilles tendinitis include: flat arches, bone spurs, obesity, tight calf muscles, worn out running shoes, cold weather, running on hilly terrain, diabetes or high blood pressure, and certain medications called fluoroquinolones.
Nonsurgical treatments are the first avenue pursued. It may take as long as 3 months for these methods to prove successful. If pain persists beyond this time frame, surgical options may be discussed with your doctor. Begin with resting and switching to lower impact activities that will put less stress on your legs. Try activities such as biking, elliptical exercise, and swimming to stay active. You should also ice the area for up to 20 minutes a time throughout the day.
The following exercises will help to strengthen your calf muscles and reduce stress. Stretch the calf by leaning forward against a wall and placing one leg in front of the other. Keep the back knee straight and push your hips toward the wall. An exercise called heel drops can be done on a set of stairs. With the front of your feet on the step and heels hanging over the edge, slowly move the heel up and down.
Other nonsurgical options include cortisone injections, extracorporeal shockwave therapy, supportive shoes and orthotics, and anti-inflammatory medications.
If conservative treatments haven't worked for you, or if the tendon has torn, you may need surgery to repair your Achilles tendon. Contact Dr. Sanjay Patel at Family Foot Care and Surgery, L.L.C. to discuss your options. You can reach us through our website or by calling either of our locations—(203) 876-7736 for our Milford, CT office, or (203) 288-4055 for Hamden, CT. Put an end to your Achilles tendinitis today.