Achilles Tendonitis

Overview

Achilles TendonitisYou?re a prime candidate for acquiring Achilles Tendonitis if you?re a runner or some other kind of athlete requiring heavy use of your calves and their attached tendons. Then again, -anybody- can get tendonitis of the Achilles tendons. All for very predictable reasons. Perhaps you have Achilles Tendon pain from cycling. Or standing at work. Or walking around a lot. Anything we do on our feet uses our lower leg structures, and the Achilles tendon bears LOTS of torque, force, load, etc. The physical dynamic called Tendonitis can show up anywhere. On the Achilles Tendon is as good a place as any. Repetitive strain injury can show up anywhere in the body that there is repetitive strain. It's an obvious statement, but worth paying attention to.

Causes

In some cases, Achilles Tendinitis can be caused by physical activity without a proper warm up or trauma, such as falling, to cause an overstressing of the muscle and tendon. Other causes include repetitive overuse syndrome, such as a job that required frequent heel lifting. Biomechanical causes such as pronation (or fallen arches) will cause the heel (calcaneus) to lean slightly, putting the undue stress on the Achilles tendon and the calf muscles. Most pain can be felt at the back of the heel or the point at which the calf muscle becomes a tendon three quarters of the distance down from the knee. Discomfort can be felt especially when jumping or when lifting the heel off the ground. Swelling and redness can often be seen at the back of the heel and touching the area would cause a tender sensation. In extreme cases, the tendon can become torn or rupture entirely which would cause bruising or an inability to put pressure on the foot.

Symptoms

Common symptoms of Achilles tendinitis include weakness in the leg, slight pain above the heel in the lower leg after activity, feeling of stiffness in the leg that usually appears in the morning and lessens throughout the day, bad pain the day after exercising, pain as you climb stairs or go uphill, swelling in the area of the Achilles tendon, creaking or cracking noise when you press on the Achilles tendon.

Diagnosis

A podiatrist can usually make the diagnosis by clinical history and physical examination alone. Pain with touching or stretching the tendon is typical. There may also be a visible swelling to the tendon. The patient frequently has difficulty plantarflexing (pushing down the ball of the foot and toes, like one would press on a gas pedal), particularly against resistance. In most cases X-rays don't show much, as they tend to show bone more than soft tissues. But X-rays may show associated degeneration of the heel bone that is common with Achilles Tendon problems. For example, heel spurs, calcification within the tendon, avulsion fractures, periostitis (a bruising of the outer covering of the bone) may all be seen on X-ray. In cases where we are uncertain as to the extent of the damage to the tendon, though, an MRI scan may be necessary, which images the soft tissues better than X-rays. When the tendon is simply inflamed and not severely damaged, the problem may or may not be visible on MRI. It depends upon the severity of the condition.

Nonsurgical Treatment

To help heal your Achille?s Tendinitis, follow the R.I.C.E. Principle including Rest, Ice Compression and Elevation. In addition your physiotherapist will likely recommend specific exercises promote healing and strengthening of the Achilles tendon and its supporting structures. As well an orthotic that elevates your heel can reduce stress on your Achilles tendon. Reducing inflammation in the tendon is important too this can often be achieved with oral pills or topical creams. Over-the-counter pain medications or prescription strength such as ibuprofen. However, these drugs can have side effects, like an increased risk of bleeding ulcers. They should be used only occasionally unless your doctor specifically says otherwise. Topical anti-inflammatory creams made with natural ingredients designed specifically for feet and legs (eg ZAX?s Original Heelspur Cream ) target the affected areas and provides effective and safe relief. Tendinitis usually responds well to self-care measures. But if your signs and symptoms are severe or persistent, your doctor might suggest other treatment options including surgery.

Achilles Tendonitis

Surgical Treatment

Chronic Achilles tendon tears can be more complicated to repair. A tendon that has torn and retracted (pulled back) into the leg will scar in the shortened position over time. Restoring normal tendon length is usually not an issue when surgery is performed within a few weeks of the injury. However, when there has been a delay of months or longer, the treatment can be more complicated. Several procedures can be used to add length to a chronic Achilles tear. A turndown procedure uses tissue folded down from the top of the calf to add length to the Achilles tendon. Tendon transfers from other tendons of the ankle can also be performed to help restore function of the Achilles. The results of surgery in a chronic situation are seldom as good as an acute repair. However, in some patients, these procedures can help restore function of a chronically damaged Achilles.

Prevention

To prevent Achilles tendonitis or tendonosis from recurring after surgical or non-surgical treatment, the foot and ankle surgeon may recommend strengthening and stretching of the calf muscles through daily exercises. Wearing proper shoes for the foot type and activity is also important in preventing recurrence of the condition.

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