Understanding Achilles Tendonitis

Christian Haight, DPM

Christian Haight, DPM

by Christian Haight, DPM
Village Podiatry, East Cobb

Achilles tendonitis affects millions of people each year of many age groups, impacting quality of life and ability to perform daily activities. I want to share the intricacies of Achilles tendonitis, explore preventive measures that your Upperline Health Podiatric team can help you manage, and shed light on the most common causes of Achilles tendonitis.

What is Achilles Tendonitis?

The Achilles tendon, a biomechanically very important component of the lower extremity, connects the calf muscles to the heel bone, facilitating movements like walking, running, and jumping. Achilles tendonitis arises when this tendon becomes inflamed, typically due to overuse, repetitive strain, or sudden increases in physical activity. Characterized by pain and stiffness in the back of the ankle, Achilles tendonitis can range from a mild annoyance to a debilitating condition that could require surgical intervention if not taken care of.

What Causes of Achilles Tendonitis?

  • Overuse and Repetitive Strain: Engaging in activities that involve repetitive motions, such as running, jumping, or dancing, can place excessive stress on the Achilles tendon, leading to micro-tears and inflammation. This inflammation leads to pain and further degradation in a vicious cycle.
  • Tight Muscles and Poor Flexibility: Tight calf muscles can increase the strain on the Achilles tendon during physical activity, making it more susceptible to injury in both the short term and long term. Incorporating stretching exercises into your routine can enhance flexibility and mitigate the risk of tendonitis.
  • Improper Footwear: Ill-fitting shoes or footwear lacking adequate support can contribute to the development of Achilles tendonitis. It’s crucial to invest in footwear tailored to your foot type, level of activity, and type of activity to reduce this strain.
  • Sudden Changes in Activity Level: Abruptly escalating the intensity, duration, or frequency of physical activity without allowing adequate time for adaptation can overload the Achilles tendon, predisposing it to injury. These injuries can cause a severe decrease in activity levels, making a smart guided approach to increasing activity more sustainable in the long run.

What Activities Can Lead to Achilles Tendonitis?

Several activities carry a heightened risk of Achilles tendonitis due to their repetitive and high-impact nature. Some of the sports commonly associated with Achilles tendonitis include:

  • Running: Long-distance running and sprinting exert significant stress on the Achilles tendon, particularly if proper warm-up, cool-down, and stretching routines are neglected.
  • Basketball: The explosive jumps and sudden changes in direction inherent in basketball can strain the Achilles tendon, especially if players do not engage in adequate conditioning and flexibility exercises.
  • Soccer: Soccer players frequently experience Achilles tendonitis due to the combination of running, jumping, and sudden accelerations and decelerations involved in the sport.
  • Tennis: The quick, lateral movements and frequent pivoting in tennis can place strain on the Achilles tendon, predisposing players to tendonitis if not adequately addressed through stretching and strengthening protocols.

How can I Prevent Achilles Tendonitis?

  • Gradual Progression: Gradually increase the intensity, duration, and frequency of physical activity to allow the body to adapt and reduce the risk of overuse injuries like Achilles tendonitis.
  • Stretching and Strengthening: Incorporate regular stretching and strengthening exercises targeting the calf muscles and Achilles tendon to improve flexibility, strength, and resilience.
  • Proper Footwear: Choose footwear with adequate cushioning, arch support, and stability tailored to your foot type and activity level to minimize strain on the Achilles tendon.
  • Cross-Training and Rest: Incorporate cross-training activities and rest days into your exercise regimen to prevent overuse injuries and promote overall musculoskeletal health.

How is Achilles Tendonitis Treated?

If Achilles tendonitis develops despite preventive measures, prompt intervention is essential to facilitate healing and prevent chronic issues. Treatment options may include:

  • Rest and Activity Modification: Avoid activities that exacerbate symptoms and allow the tendon time to rest and recover.
  • Ice Therapy: Apply ice packs to the affected area to reduce pain and inflammation, particularly after physical activity.
  • Physical Therapy: Work with a physical therapist to develop a comprehensive rehabilitation program focused on stretching, strengthening, and biomechanical correction to support healing and prevent recurrence.
  • Orthotic Intervention: Custom orthotic inserts can provide additional support and alignment for the feet, reducing strain on the Achilles tendon during weight-bearing activities.
  • Offloading of the tendon: Utilizing specialized offloading and/or stretching devices, this strategy can allow time for your body to heal the tendon while resting it. This approach also allows a more minimal impact on life than staying completely off the foot for long periods.
  • Surgical Intervention: In severe cases, the tendonitis may be resistant to conservative treatment, and surgery may be an option to alleviate pain and restore function of the tendon. Upperline Health’s Podiatric Physicians can assist with this, and many specialize in sports medicine and soft tissue injury.

Achilles tendonitis is a prevalent yet preventable condition that can significantly impact one’s physical activity and quality of life. By incorporating proactive measures such as gradual progression, stretching, proper footwear selection, and cross-training into your routine, you can mitigate the risk of Achilles tendonitis and enjoy a fulfilling, injury-free lifestyle. Prioritizing the health and well-being of your Achilles tendon today can spare you from prolonged pain and limitations tomorrow

About Dr. Haight

A Georgia native, Dr. Christian Haight is well-trained in treating Achilles tendonitis and specializes in care for sports injuries, flatfoot reconstruction, bunion repair, and pediatric conditions. If you experience persistent or severe symptoms, visit him in his office in East Cobb at 1100 Jonhson Ferry Road Suite 372 in Marietta GA. It’s in the Woodlawn Point Shopping Center next to FedEx.

Dr. Haight treats patients of all ages in the Marietta and greater Atlanta area.

Please call our office at 770-273-8895  or visit us online to schedule your appointment. Dr. Haight and his staff look forward to meeting you.