Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis
The most predominant symptom of Achilles tendonitis is swelling and pain in the back of the heel. The pain may begin as a dull ache and become more pronounced and localized during exercise. Walking or running will intensify the pain and make it feel worse than it did when the body was at rest. Other symptoms of Achilles tendonitis include the following:
The Achilles tendon feels warm to the touch – you will feel a “burning” or warm sensation at the surface of the skin. This is a known warning sign of inflammation.
Limited range of motion in the foot – Achilles tendonitis makes several positions of the foot extremely painful, such as the movement between a flexed foot and a foot in the pointed position. When the Achilles tendon is torn or inflamed, this type of motion is very painful.
Swelling in the back of the heel that increases with activity – As an individual exercises or uses the Achilles tendon by walking, they are aggravating the existing symptoms of their condition. They may notice more redness, warmth, and swelling around the heel and ankle after exercising.
Bone spurs in the back of the heels – Bone spurs may begin to form as a result of a type of pain called insertional Achilles tendonitis, where the damaged tendon fibers start to calcify and form hardened heel spurs on the back of the foot.
Tightness in the calf muscles – When the Achilles tendon becomes overworked, it can cause all of the surrounding muscles to seize up, becoming tense and rigid in response to the injury. Because the Achilles tendon is directly connected to the calf muscle, the two often mirror each other in their symptoms and injuries.
Achilles tendon stiffness in the morning – It is common for the Achilles tendon to become stiff and tense in the morning when it hasn’t been used throughout the night. Just as muscles need to be warmed up before exercising, an injured Achilles tendon requires some gentle stretching and motion before it can be used without pain.
Pain during physical activity – Achilles tendonitis becomes more exacerbated with physical activity and may be less pronounced at the beginning of a workout. It’s not uncommon for an individual to begin exercising with very little pain only to feel extreme pain by the end of their training session after an already aggravated Achilles tendon has been overworked.
Pain that does not subside after physical activity has ceased – Achilles tendonitis may be worse during exercise. Symptoms can still be present when the body is at rest. When pain and discomfort in the Achilles tendon do not subside with rest, they are a sign that there is something more than muscle fatigue at play.
The pain and discomfort of Achilles tendonitis can make it difficult for individuals to carry out their normal activities on a daily basis. When an injury prevents a person from enjoying their normal range of motion, it is a problem that should be addressed quickly to maintain physical wellness and quality of life.
If you are experiencing pain and believe you are showing symptoms of Achilles tendonitis, a health care professional should be able to help. Be sure to call your local physician for an official diagnosis and further treatment options.
Risk Factors for Achilles Tendonitis
Certain activities can cause Achilles tendonitis and make the pain feel worse after the condition has developed. Athletes who engage in tennis, dance, gymnastics, or basketball, for example may experience Achilles tendonitis more frequently than people who participate in low impact sports such as cycling and swimming. Running exacerbates Achilles tendonitis because of the motion involved, as does walking for extended periods of time, especially when the body is not used to these activities.
Some individuals are more susceptible to developing Achilles tendonitis. People who have flat feet or fallen arches are more likely to experience Achilles tendonitis. Other risk factors associated with this condition include:
Age – Achilles tendonitis is more common in older adults.
Sex – men are more prone to getting Achilles tendonitis than women.
Obesity – excessive weight places too much strain on the tendon.
Tight calves – rigid muscles do not allow the tendon to stretch and move the way it’s supposed to.
Predisposed medical conditions, including psoriasis, high blood pressure, and rheumatoid arthritis can all contribute to a higher occurrence of Achilles tendonitis.
Training conditions – training in hilly terrain and during cold weather increases the chances of developing Achilles tendonitis.
Women who wear high heels – when the heel does not fully extend to the ground, it becomes shortened over time and degenerates when switching to flat shoes or engaging in physical activity.
Poorly conditioned athletes – not exercising regularly, training properly, or stretching during exercise.
How to Treat Achilles Tendonitis
Achilles tendonitis is treated in a number of ways, including rest, reducing physical activity, changing to a low impact sport, going to regular physiotherapy sessions, taking anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen, wearing a brace that prevents movement in the foot, applying ice to the area, and elevation. Treatment for Achilles tendonitis will need to be repeated with every new occurrence and is often required to keep future incidents at bay.
Ongoing physical therapy can be costly and inconvenient for many people, and for some, it’s simply not available if they live in remote areas. Also, many individuals do not have the time to rest and elevate their feet, do not want the inconvenience of wearing a brace, and prefer not to take anti-inflammatory medications on a regular basis.
Treatment of Achilles tendonitis is possible, but it requires, patience, time, and personal sacrifice to achieve a full recovery. Professional athletes or individuals who are very dedicated to their sports will find it difficult to put their training on hold while recovering from Achilles tendonitis. Rest periods required will vary, but the typical recommendation is two days, which is not possible for some people whose job or lifestyle requires them to be on their feet for long periods.