The Achilles Tendon
Tendons are one of the two connective tissues—ligaments being the other—found within the human body. They are responsible for connecting muscles to bones and play an essential role in enabling movement. Given the numerous amounts of bones and muscles in the lower limbs, there are also many tendons used to provide structure and allow for movement.
The Achilles tendon, specifically, connects the calf muscle to the calcaneus (heel bone). When the calf muscle tightens, it pulls the Achilles tendon and the foot points downward. When the muscle elongates, the Achilles forces the foot to point upwards. This enables humans to walk, run, jump, pedal bicycles, and even operate the brake and gas pedals in our cars.
Achilles Tendinitis Causes and Symptoms
There are various potential causes of Achilles injury, including:
- Increasing levels of physical activity too quickly
- Abnormal foot structure
- Tight leg muscles or tendons
This particular injury does tend to be more commonplace among men and women who are active. They tend to run or participate in sports like baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis, football, and volleyball. A problem is more likely to happen when movement is initiated in a sudden manner, such as when making a “cut” in basketball or football.
The most common symptoms of Achilles tendinitis are pain, tenderness, stiffness, and swelling in the back of the heel area. The pain can vary in intensity, but will often begin mild and gradually worsen over time and continued activity.
Treating an Inflamed Achilles Tendon
There are definitely instances when an Achilles tendon requires a surgical procedure, but the vast majority of cases are successfully treated with the use of conservative care measures. These can include:
- Medication – The goal of medication use is to relieve pain and reduce inflammation in the Achilles. Over-the-counter pain relievers may work, but we might need to prescribe stronger medications, depending on the severity of your injury.
- Exercise – It might seem counterintuitive to use exercise to treat a condition brought on by “excessive use,” but strengthening and stretching exercises help promote healing. They also strengthen the Achilles and its supporting structures to improve the existing condition and prevent its recurrence. Our office will provide specific exercises.
- Orthotic devices – A wedge or other shoe insert can elevate the heel slightly, which relieves tendon strain and lessons the force exerted on the Achilles. The orthotics we provide are custom-fitted for your unique feet.
- Surgery – Whereas conservative care is usually effective, there are cases when surgical procedures are needed to provide optimal relief and healing. Our policy is to use nonsurgical processes to treat the injury first, though.
- Advanced Options – Along with the options referenced above, we offer unique technology that can aid in healing an Achilles tendon; Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy & MLS Laser Therapy.
Our doctors here at Premier Podiatry Group can certainly put together an effective treatment plan for Achilles tendinitis, but we would prefer that you avoid injury in the first place. With this in mind, here are some tips to help you prevent Achilles tendinitis:
- Ease into new activities and gradually increase levels of intensity and duration.
- Wear activity-appropriate footwear that fits correctly and offers firm arch support and ample cushioning for the heel.
- Stretch daily to keep calf muscles and Achilles tendons limber.
- Strengthen calf muscles to allow them to better handle stresses that come with physical activity.
- Cross-train by incorporating low-impact exercises (swimming, cycling, yoga) into your workout routine.
Professional Achilles Tendon Care
No matter whether you sustain a case of Achilles tendinitis or rupture the valuable tendon, Premier Podiatry Group, P.C. is ready to help. Our experienced, skilled doctors will provide the treatment you need so you can return to your favorite activities in the shortest amount of time possible. Call our office at (814) 472-2660 or schedule an appointment with us online today.
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