Understanding Achilles Tendinitis: Causes and Treatment

Your Achilles tendon is highly vulnerable to micro injuries and inflammation. The longer the inflammation lasts, the more it damages and weakens your tendon. And that means it takes longer to heal.

With early treatment, the pain of Achilles tendinitis often lasts at least three months. And if you wait several months before seeking treatment, you could be in for a recovery that takes six months or longer.

When J. Adrian Wright, DPM, MS and his team treat Achilles tendinitis at Quantum Foot and Ankle Group, PC, in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, their goal is to relieve your pain and to provide comprehensive care that allows your tendon to fully heal and regain optimal strength.

Top causes of Achilles tendinitis

The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles in your leg to the backside of your heel. Every time you take a step, the tendon tightens to raise your heel. This lifting action allows the front of your foot to push off the ground.

Though the Achilles tendon is incredibly strong, it still endures a lot of wear-and-tear. When you frequently repeat the same movement, the tendon develops small tears or micro-injuries, which in turn cause inflammation or Achilles tendinitis.

Here’s a rundown of the most common reasons people end up with this painful condition.

Overuse injuries

The damage caused by repeating the same movement is called an overuse injury. Overuse injuries, the most common cause of Achilles tendinitis, typically develop when you:

Though anyone can develop Achilles tendinitis from an overuse injury, people who participate in sports have the highest risk.

Foot and heel problems

Flat feet (low arches) and bone spurs on your heel can quickly lead to Achilles tendinitis. Low arches affect the way you walk and put more pressure on your Achilles tendon. A bone spur may rub against your tendon, causing irritation and inflammation.

Tight calf muscles

Tight calf muscles place more stress on the Achilles tendon, accelerating micro-injuries and increasing your chances of developing tendinitis.

Improper technique

You also put excessive stress on the tendon if you don’t take time to warm up or if you fail to use the proper technique for your sport.

Getting older

You’re more likely to develop Achilles tendinitis as you get older. Over time, the tendon becomes less flexible and weakens.

Achilles tendonitis treatments

We use advanced diagnostic imaging to evaluate your Achilles tendon. Once we determine the extent of your injury, we create a personalized treatment plan that may include any of the following.

Rest and activity modification

The first step is to limit or stop the activities that make your pain worse. In most cases, you can usually modify your activities to reduce the stress. For example, you may need to stop running, but you can switch to activities such as swimming or cycling.

Medications

Most patients take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications to help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.

Custom orthotics

Custom orthotics take the strain off your Achilles tendon and reduce the force on the tendon when you walk. You may also need orthotics if your tendinitis is caused by gait problems or overpronation.

Physical therapy and structured exercise

We can teach you exercises that safely strengthen and stretch your calf muscles. However, you may need physical therapy, which includes a range of beneficial treatments from soft tissue massage to gait re-education, ultrasound therapy, and sport-specific rehabilitation.

Regenerative medicine

We use several types of regenerative medicine treatments, including extracorporeal pulse activation technology (EPAT®) and stem cell-derived therapies like FlowerAmnioFlo™. These treatments trigger new tissue growth and accelerate healing.

Surgery

Once the tendon ruptures, surgery to repair the tendon lowers your risk of re-injuring the tendon, increasing the tendon’s strength, and restoring its overall function.

If you develop pain along your Achilles tendon, pain or swelling at the back of your heel, or a noticeably thickened tendon, don’t wait to seek medical care. Call Quantum Foot and Ankle Group, PC, at 201-571-0900 or request an appointment online.

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