Pain in the Back of Your Heel? How to Stop Achilles Tendon Problems
Pain in the back of your heel can be a familiar feeling for many and is many times a sign of an Achilles tendon injury.
Many physically active adults nearing (or passing) middle age can be particularly vulnerable to Achilles tendon problems. However, anyone at any age can experience such a sports injury if there is repetitive and/or intense strain on the tendon. Frequent distance running or a high-intensity pickup game of basketball on the weekend, for example, can be enough to cause pain.
What Could Pain in the Back of the Heel Mean for My Achilles Tendon?
The Achilles tendon is a common source of pain in the back of the heel, given how it fits into the overall picture of your body.
The Achilles tendon is a strong band that is attached to the back of the heel bone, with the other end connecting to your calf muscles.
When the Achilles tendon experiences more stress than it is currently conditioned to handle, it can become inflamed or even develop small tears. This is a classic case of Achilles tendinitis.
Common symptoms of Achilles tendinitis include:
- Pain, often worse after running, climbing stairs, or other activities
- Stiffness, particularly in the morning or after other long periods of inactivity
The focus of damage to your Achilles tendon can make a difference in where exactly you feel symptoms. It can sometimes be felt mainly in the back of the heel, where the tendon attaches to the heel bone (insertional Achilles tendinitis) or a bit higher in the back of the leg (non-insertional Achilles tendinitis).
Just because you have pain in the back in the heel does not mean there’s a guarantee of Achilles tendinitis, however. Other conditions, such as bursitis, can also be responsible for similar symptoms.
Treating Achilles Tendinitis at Home
If you have a mild case of Achilles tendinitis, most cases can be successfully treated with conservative care measures.
You can likely start steps for home care immediately. This can include:
- Rest – Keep weight off the affected foot and leg as much as you can. Do not engage in any activities that can further inflame your Achilles tendon.
- Ice – A cold compress or cold pack applied to the area for 15-20 minutes at a time can help relieve pain and swelling. Do not let the source of cold directly contact the skin. Wrap it in a thin towel first.
- Compression Wrap – If you know how to properly wrap the area, it helps reduce stress upon it. Feel free to skip this step if you do not know how to wrap or are not comfortable doing it.
- Elevate – Keep the affected area above the level of your heart whenever sitting or lying down.
Such home care may help relieve your current symptoms. However, if the actual causes of the problem are not also addressed, it can be likely that your Achilles tendinitis will return later – and potentially even worse.
If you have any persistent heel or foot pain that doesn’t improve or disappear after a couple of days of home care – or keeps returning – it’s always best to contact us about it. The sooner we can provide professional evaluation and treatment, the better!
Professional Treatment for Achilles Tendon Pain
There are many more conservative options for Achilles tendinitis treatment we can provide than are available with home care. Not only can we treat the symptoms of an Achilles injury, but also get to the bottom of what’s causing it and take steps to address that as well.
First, we must confirm what exactly the pain in the back of your heel is coming from. That often involves a thorough evaluation, including questions about your symptoms, when they are at their worst, what kinds of activities you often do, etc. The more we know about your case and unique needs, the better we can zero in on the factors affecting your pain.
Depending on what we find, we might recommend one or more of the following as part of an overall treatment plan:
- Medication – Pain relief and anti-inflammatory medications can be useful. While over-the-counter options are often effective, we might need to prescribe stronger medications based on the severity of your injury.
- Stretching and Exercise – It might seem counterintuitive to exercise an injury that may have been brought about by overuse but following a proper plan can help strengthen and condition vulnerable areas of the Achilles and supporting structures. This can not only help relieve pain but reduce the chances of recurrence as well.
- Orthotic Devices – Custom orthotic inserts or wedges can help elevate the heel enough to relieve tension and strain on the Achilles, aiding in a more effective recovery. They can also aid in preventing additional strain in the future.
- Advanced Treatments – Advanced technologies such as MLS laser therapy and Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy can help relieve pain and accelerate the natural healing of the tendon.
Surgery is seldom necessary for an Achilles tendon injury, and might only be considered if conservative treatments are not providing results or if there is severe damage to the tendon (e.g. severe tearing or a full rupture).
Get Back Your Time from Heel Pain
Whether Achilles tendinitis or another problem is causing you consistent pain in the back of your heel, Premier Podiatry Group is here and ready to help. Our skilled doctors can not only provide the treatment you or a loved one needs but help you get back to the activities you enjoy most with less risk of having to endure similar problems in the future.
Schedule an appointment at our Johnstown or Ebensburg offices by giving us a call or by filling out our online contact form. We’ll be happy to see you.