Achilles tendonitis is an inflammation of the Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon connects the gastrocnemius and soleus calf muscles to the back of the heel bone. When too much stress is placed on the tendon it becomes inflamed. With continued stress the tendon may thicken due to scar tissue and may eventually rupture. Achilles tendonitis typically begins as a dull ache in the back of the heel. As the condition progress the pain may increase in intensity and redness and swelling can occur in the area. The ankle joint may feel stiff on initial weight bearing.
Achilles tendonitis is caused by repetitive stress on the Achilles tendon. It commonly occurs in individuals with tight calf muscles or a contracted Achilles tendon due to lack of stretching. Frequent use of high heel shoes can lead to a tight Achilles tendon. Since it is an overuse injury it may occur if physical activity is increased to rapidly. This is frequently seen in runners who increase their mileage too fast. Individuals with flat feet or who are overweight put more strain on the tendon and therefore at a higher risk of developing Achilles tendonitis. Achilles tendonitis is commonly diagnosed with a detailed history and physical exam. X-rays may be performed to exclude other conditions in the area. An Ultrasound or MRI can be used to better visualize the tendon and will show inflammation.
The goal of treatment is to decrease inflammation and excessive stress being placed on the tendon. Anti-inflammatories are often used to decrease inflammation. Stretching exercises are useful in individuals with a tight Achilles tendon. A Night Splint by Ovation Medical provides a comfortable gradual stretch of the Achilles tendon. Physical therapy is often prescribed to decrease inflammation and strengthen the tendon. Innersoles and Heel Cushions by Scott can be used to elevate the heel in individuals with a tight tendon. Orthotics by Ortho-Dynamics are beneficial to support the arch of individuals with flat feet. Individuals with flat feet should also use supportive shoe gear. In some cases immobilization of the foot and ankle with a Cam Walker by Oviation may be needed.