Achilles tendonitis is the inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which connects calf muscles to the heel bone, and causes severe pain and discomfort when inflamed. This condition is caused by a sudden increase in physical activity, tight calf muscles, and bone spurs.
The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body. While the tendon can take significant amounts of stress, it is still susceptible to overuse injuries such as tendonitis. Patients will often feel pain in the middle or bottom portions of the tendon near the heel. It’s essential that those with Achilles tendonitis rest the area, as fibers often become damaged with slight tears which can lead to a ruptured Achilles tendon. A common sign of Achilles tendonitis is visible swelling and thickness along the Achilles tendon.
There are two main forms of Achilles tendonitis: noninsertional and insertional.
Noninsertional Achilles tendonitis occurs when the fibers break down in the middle portion of the tendon. The middle portion of the large tendon will swell and thicken and is usually visually noticeable.
Insertional Achilles tendonitis occurs when the fibers in the lower portion begin to break down and if often accompanies by bone spurs. Patients will notice apparent swelling just above the heel bone.
• Pain, swelling and stiffness along the Achilles tendon.
• Pain which worsens with activity
• Severe pain after exercising
• Bone spurs
Doctors can use either surgical or nonsurgical treatment options to combat Achilles tendonitis. The most common form of treatment is nonsurgical:
• Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication
Despite Achilles tendonitis being an overuse injury, exercise is still a common nonsurgical option. For instance, increasing flexibility and strength in the calf muscles can take pressure off the Achilles tendon.
Other nonsurgical options include physical therapy, cortisone injections, supportive shoes and orthotics, and extracorporeal shockwave therapy.