Achilles Tendinitis - Everything You Need To Know
The Achilles is essential to movement and an extremely important part of athletic performance. This tendon is a thick cord that connects your heel bone to your calf muscle. Every step you take is with the assistance of your Achilles tendon.
The oldest-known written record of the Achilles tendon being named after the Greek mythological figure Achilles is in 1693 by the Dutch anatomist Philip Verheyen. In his widely used text Corporis Humani Anatomia he described the tendon's location and said that it was commonly called "the cord of Achilles."
Given its location and the forces it needs to support, the Achilles is the largest and strongest tendon in the body. How strong? When you jump up and down, your Achilles tendons are withstanding forces more than 1,100 pounds! Your tendons take forces like this throughout your lifetime. So, you need to take good care of them.
What is Achilles Tendinitis?
Achilles tendinitis, a common injury among athletes, is an inflammation of the Achilles tendon. There’s an estimated 200,000 cases of Achilles tendinitis in the USA every year. This condition typically occurs when the tendon is overused and becomes inflamed. The tiny tears that form in the tendon cause it to grow and swell. When the tendon degenerates, it creates a painful condition that makes motions like walking or running difficult to perform.
The pain and discomfort of Achilles tendinitis can make it difficult for individuals to carry out their normal activities daily. 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.
What are the Symptoms of Achilles Tendinitis?
The most predominant symptom of Achilles tendinitis 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 tendinitis 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 tendinitis 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 tendinitis, 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 tendinitis 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 tendinitis 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.
If you are experiencing pain and believe you are showing symptoms of Achilles tendinitis, a health care professional should be able to help. Be sure to call your local physician for an official diagnosis and further treatment options.
What Causes Achilles Tendinitis?
Typically, this condition is not the result of an acute injury, but often develops over time with excessive exercise or a dramatic increase in the duration or frequency of training. While some causes are uncontrollable, others are a result of “user error”, overuse or unnatural movements of the foot.
Here are the Top Ten factors that can cause Achilles tendinitis:
- Overuse or heavy physical activity – Overuse of the Achilles tendon occurs when an individual completes an intense level of physical activity that is a drastic increase from what they are used to. For example, a person who does not regularly run should not begin a new intense program without easing into it first. Sudden changes in exercise levels are the primary cause of Achilles tendinitis.
- Sports that require a fast start-stop motion, such as tennis or basketball - The force required to start and stop quickly leads to excessive stretching and contracting of the tendon. These types of activities can result in strain, small tears, jarring, and twisting of the heel area, all of which can contribute to Achilles tendinitis and require treatment.
3. Not properly warming up or stretching before exercising – The Achilles tendon needs to be gently warmed up before beginning exercise. Without doing so, the Achilles tendon is expected to take on the stress and strain of physical activity without being properly prepared. Stretching is a critical part of any successful exercise or training program, it is used for preventing injuries caused by the physical demands put on muscles that are not adequately prepared. When muscles have not been stretched, they are shortened and tight, and sudden activity can lead to stress and injury. Taking the time to warm up and stretch beforehand can make a significant difference in the way the Achilles tendon responds to physical activity.
4. Running or training in inflexible shoes – Footwear that is too rigid does not allow for minor adjustments in the gait and forces the Achilles tendon to twist in an unnatural way. This causes undue strain on the tendon and leads to Achilles pain and inflammation.
5. Wearing unsupportive or worn-out shoes – Shoes that lack proper support leave room for foot imbalances to occur. Flat feet that do not have an adequate arch build-up will roll inward. This is known as over pronation, and it causes an unnatural pulling on the Achilles tendon. Individuals with very high arches often have a gait that causes the foot to roll towards the outside edge, known as supination. When the arches are not supported by the appropriate footwear, these imbalances put unnecessary strain on the heel, ankle, and Achilles tendon, leaving the wearer vulnerable to developing tendinitis. Athletes of all fitness levels should replace their shoes on a regular basis to ensure that they remain free of injury or arch pain.
6. Running on uneven surfaces or very hard ground – Surfaces such as asphalt or concrete are unforgiving on the joints and muscles of the body. When you run on a hard surface, it causes your feet to pound on the pavement repeatedly. This can add too much strain to the heel and the Achilles tendon, particularly when you are not wearing the proper footwear. Uneven surfaces cause imbalances in the way the foot strikes the ground, and an unstable gait can lead to Achilles tendinitis. Runners should attempt to run on artificial surfaces like turf, or on softer surfaces like grass or gravel wherever possible, to reduce their risk of injury.
7. Wearing high heels for extended periods of time – When a person wears high heels, their feet remain in a “tip toe” position. Achilles tendinitis occurs when the wearer removes high heels and suddenly changes to flat shoes or bare feet. The extreme stretching that happens is traumatic for the tendon, which has been shortened and compressed for a long period and then suddenly stretched. High heels do little to support the feet or provide stability and cushioning required for optimal foot health.
8. Repeated exercises that strain the calf muscles – Repetitive movements such as springing off the ground when running, or jumping while dancing, can cause tightness in the calf muscles. Without proper stretching, these muscles become shortened and will pull on the Achilles tendon, creating a chain of tight muscles that trickles down the leg and into the foot. The repetitive action of these motions will make this problem worse over time and can eventually lead to Achilles tendinitis, particularly if the body is not used to movements of this nature.
9. Biomechanical issues, such as flat feet, high arches, tight calf muscles, or bone spurs – Some people are born with a predisposition to Achilles tendinitis. There are several pre-existing conditions that contribute to what causes heel pain, and these include various mechanical issues. This includes tight muscles in the leg, fallen arches, calcified bone spurs, and variations in the type of arches in the feet.
10. Aging – Achilles tendinitis is more prevalent in older adults than in young people. Over time, the Achilles tendon becomes more rigid and less flexible, making older adults more prone to developing Achilles tendinitis.
How To Treat Achilles Tendinitis
Treatment will need to be repeated with every new occurrence and is often required to keep future incidents at bay. Achilles tendinitis can be treated in several ways:
- The RICE Method – Rest, Ice, Compression & Elevation
- 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
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.
Can Insoles Help Achilles Tendinitis?
Using insoles and the proper footwear can help reduce the chances of getting Achilles Tendinitis in the first place. And insoles can be the best solution for a relatively common ailment that affects a broad number of people. Shoe inserts for posterior tibial tendonitis are used to improve your foot position and raise or support your foot's medial arch, thus relieving stress and strain from your tibialis posterior tendon.
Insoles for Achilles Tendinitis are designed to keep the foot in the best position possible to promote healing and foot health. Those with Achilles tendinitis often find relief by wearing insoles as they cradle the foot and hold it in the proper alignment and provide the ideal amount of support for each individual’s arch shape. Achilles tendinitis will heal more quickly when the foot can remain in the correct position, whether it’s in use or at rest.
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 tendinitis. 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.
How VKTRY Insoles Help With Achilles Tendinitis
VKs assist at toe off by taking some of the stress off the ligament. Standard passive insoles serve only to support and cushion the athlete but in addition to that, VKs return stored energy, thereby reducing the stress on tendons and ligaments.
Stretching the tendon when it is already inflamed can cause more pain, meaning that a slightly raised heel will be more comfortable than a completely flat shoe. For this reason, carbon fiber inserts offer unmatched support and assist an injured Achilles tendon in plantarflexing the foot thereby assisting propulsion. For those who have trouble with their Achilles tendon, allowing the heel to sit in an optimal position where it is neither overextended nor shortened or pronated /supinated.
Due to its patented layering, VKs are rigid under the midfoot and flexible at the heel and toe. VKs are most rigid under the midfoot thereby providing structure and support to the all-important calcaneal/navicular and calcaneal/cuboid joints as well as mid-tarsal, (Lisfranc) joints.
However, moving away from the midfoot, VKs become more flexible. By being semi-flexible at the heel and toe, VKs absorb shock at heel strike as well as upon landing reducing the stress and strain on the Achilles tendon.
Treatment of Achilles tendinitis requires patience and time to achieve a full recovery. Achilles tendinitis will heal more quickly when the foot can remain in the correct position, whether it’s in use or at rest.
VKTRY Insoles have been successful in helping athletes with injuries, as evidenced by field research, clinical studies and in thousands of customer testimonials. However, when it comes to health care, all people and all injuries are not alike. VKTRY always recommends that you consult your physician when considering treatments of an injury. And VKTRY offers a 90-day money back guarantee, so if the product is not helping a person in recovery, VKTRY provides a no questions asked refund.
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