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The Achilles tendon is the most powerful tendon in the human body. It connects the backs of your calf muscles to your heel bone and enables movement in the ankle.
Achilles tendinitis is an overuse injury of this tendon and is most common in runners who have suddenly increased the intensity or duration of their runs. It’s also common in middle-aged people who play sports regularly.
Pain that occurs due to Achilles tendinitis will typically begin as an ache in the back of the leg or above the heel. This pain will occur after running or another sports activity.
More severe pain may occur after prolonged running, stair-climbing, or sprinting.
Tenderness and stiffness are also possible, especially in the morning. This feeling will usually improve with mild activity.
You should see a doctor when you start experiencing persistent pain around the Achilles tendon. You should seek immediate medical attention if the pain or disability is particularly severe.
Achilles tendinitis can occur for many reasons, including but not limited to:
Sex-Achilles tendinitis is most common in men
Age-the older you are, the more common Achilles tendinitis becomes
Medications-certain types of antibiotics are correlated with higher rates of Achilles tendinitis
Medical Conditions-those who have psoriasis or high blood pressure are at a higher risk of developing Achilles tendonitis
Training Choices-running in worn-out shoes increases the risk of Achilles tendinitis. Tendon pain will occur more frequently in cold weather and running in hilly terrain can predispose you to Achilles injury.
Physical Problems-If you have flat feet more strain is placed on the Achilles tendon. Obesity and overly-tight calf muscles are also contributing factors.
During your physical exam, your doctor will press on the affected area to determine the source of your pain. The physical exam will also help your Pain Relief Center physician determine the flexibility and range of motion in your foot and ankle.
Your doctor may also order one or more imaging tests to assess your condition.
Some possible imaging tests they may order are:
MRI-this uses radio waves and has a strong magnet. An MRI can produce very detailed images of the Achilles tendon.
Ultrasound-an ultrasound uses sound waves to visualize your soft tissues. Therefore, an ultrasound can show the doctors at Pain Relief Center real-time images of your Achilles tendon. Color-Doppler ultrasound can even help evaluate the blood flow around your Achilles tendon.
X-ray-this can't visualize soft tissues, like tendons, but they are helpful in ruling out other conditions.
Tendinitis responds well to self-care methods. If your early morning foot pain is a result of Achilles tendinitis, the pain will be localized to the tendon area, on the back of your ankle above the heel. Stretching this area several times throughout the day can be helpful in alleviating symptoms.
Over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen (Aleve) will help reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Avoiding exercise for a few days or switching to an activity like swimming that doesn’t strain the Achilles tendon can help ease the pain.
It isn’t always possible to prevent Achilles tendinitis. But you can take measures to reduce your risk.
Some of these measures are:
Increase your activity level gradually. Start your exercise regimen slowly and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your training.
Take it easy. Avoid activities that place extra stress on your tendons. If you do participate in strenuous activity, warm up first by exercising at a slower pace.
Choose your shoes carefully. The shoes you wear while exercising should provide adequate cushioning for your heel and firm arch support. This helps reduce the tension in the Achilles tendon. Replace your worn-out shoes.
Stretch daily. Take the time to stretch your calf muscles and Achilles tendon in the morning, before exercise, and after exercise.
Strengthen your calf muscles. Strong calf muscles enable the calf and Achilles tendon to better handle stress.
Cross-train. Alternate high impact activities with low-impact activities. For instance, if you are a frequent runner, supplement some of your runs with swimming.
The most critical step on the path to recovery is finding a pain management doctor who can address your pain management needs successfully. The Pain Relief Center and its five specialized institutes are dedicated to meeting any and all of a patient’s needs. Located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Dr. Rodriguez and his friendly staff will help you along the path to recovery.
Our new center in Dallas is part of a nationwide development by Pain Relief Centers, geared to providing individualized and comprehensive healing and pain management services with unprecedented levels of compassion, care, and comfort for each patient.