Everything You Need to Know About Achilles Tendonitis
Did you know your Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in your body? It is, and for really good reason. Your Achilles tendon has a significant job —it helps you walk, jump, run, and move around throughout the day. But this tendon does have a major weakness; its own kryptonite, if you will. This tendon is subject to tendonitis that can leave you completely immobilized.Learn everything you need to know about Achilles tendonitis and how to treat it.
What It IsWhen you are injured or sick, your body’s natural reaction is inflammation. Well, simply put, tendonitis is inflammation of your Achilles tendon, oftentimes causing swelling, pain, and irritation. There are two types of tendonitis to be aware of:
- Noninsertional Achilles Tendonitis occurs in the middle of your tendon and is most common in younger people who play sports and run regularly.
- Insertional Achilles Tendonitis affects the lower portion of the tendon and can affect anyone, at any time.
Causes of Achilles Tendonitis
The most common cause of Achilles tendonitis is overuse and stress. When you’re doing too much, too soon, your body’s response is inflammation of the tendon to slow you down. Other common causes include speeding up or slowing down suddenly, or pivoting or changing direction too quickly. While this injury is found often in athletes, it can also occur if you have flat feet or fallen arches, consistently have tight leg muscles and tendons, or wear heels a lot.
Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis
If you feel pain above your heel, especially when stretching or standing on your toes, you’re most likely dealing with some tendonitis. Tenderness and swelling around the tendon are also common symptoms to be aware of that could indicate Achilles tendonitis.
First and foremost, you should ice, rest, and elevate your legs if you’re dealing with any pain associated with Achilles tendonitis. Limit your physical activity or stop altogether to give your tendon time to heal. If you still want to exercise during this time, cut out running and switch to cross-training, low impact activities like cycling.Other treatments include calf stretches and heel drop exercises:
- Calf stretches —This stretch provides a nice, relieving pull to your calf and heel muscles and tendons. One way to do this is to lean forward against a wall with one leg out in front and bent at the knee and the other leg straight behind you, with your heel still touching the ground. Push your hips toward the wall to feel the pull in your calf muscles and heel cord. Make sure to hold this position for 10 seconds and repeat 15–20 times.
- Heel drop exercises —Stretches like the bilateral heel drop and single leg heel drop help strengthen your Achilles tendon and promote healing. Stand on a step with your heels hanging off. In a controlled motion, lower your heel towards the ground, hold for 10 seconds, then come back up. Make sure to repeat this exercise 15–20 times to build up your tendon’s strength.
If ice, rest, and stretching aren’t enough, there are orthotic solutions that can help provide more comfort. Powerstep’s Endurance Insoles are made for people who are highly active and need another level of support when they run and play sports. Men’s and women’s recovery socks and adjustable heel lifts can also relieve the pain and discomfort associated with Achilles tendonitis. For more extreme or chronic cases of tendonitis, make sure to consult a doctor for stronger treatments. Your doctor may recommend solutions like cortisone injections, physical therapy, or surgery.
Remember, Achilles tendonitis is your body’s way of telling you to slow down and take it easy. If you begin feeling pain above your heel, change up your workouts and take it easy on your tendon.