In essence, repetitive and intense strain on the Achilles tendon is primarily the cause of Achilles tendinitis.
Putting it another way, the condition is the injury of the Achilles tendon brought about by overuse.
The Achilles tendon is the tissue band that links the calf muscles (situated at the back of the lower leg) to the heel bone.
As one ages, the tendon structure weakens, making it more susceptible to injuries.
Achilles tendinitis is prevalent among middle-aged individuals who engage in sports (i.e. tennis and basketball) only on the weekends and among runners who drastically increase the intensity and duration of their runs.
It is reassuring to note however that majority of Achilles tendinitis cases will respond to at-home remedies supervised by a medical professional.
However, serious cases should be given proper attention and treatment or it can result to tendon tears (ruptures) that might need surgical repair.
Telltale indicators of Achilles tendinitis include tenderness, stiffness, and mild ache in the back of the leg situated above the heel.
The symptoms will often manifest after runs and other intense activities.
Some of the factors that can help increase one’s risk of Achilles tendinitis include:
Training choices – running on hilly terrains can significantly increase one’s likelihood of developing Achilles injuries. Wearing shoes that are worn-out can also increase the risk of developing the condition.
Age – the condition can occur more often as one ages
Sex – Achilles tendinitis is more common in men than in women
Medical conditions – patients with psoriasis and high blood pressure are more predisposed to Achilles tendinitis compared to their healthier counterparts
Physical problems – people with a flat arch in the foot are also more likely to develop the condition compared to others. Obesity and tight calf muscles are also factors that have been known to add to the tendon’s strain
To accurately diagnose if the patient has Achilles tendinitis, the doctor will need to assess the range of motion, reflexes, flexibility, and alignment of both the ankle and the foot.
In some instances, the doctor will have to require other tests to evaluate the condition further.
Some of the likely tests include:
X-rays – while X-rays won’t be able to visualize the soft tissues, it is used to help rule out other conditions that might manifest the same symptoms.
Ultrasound – this device produces real-time images of the tendon in action using sound waves to visualize the soft tissues. If the blood flow around the tendon needs to be checked, a color-Doppler ultrasound will be required.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – with the use of radio waves and a strong magnet, MRI machines can produce highly detailed images.
While there is no sure way to prevent the condition from occurring, it is reassuring to know there are measures one can adapt to significantly reduce the risk of Achilles tendinitis from happening.
For starters, the following can help ensure Achilles tendinitis is kept at bay:
Cross-training – to ensure your Achilles tendon is safe from injury, it would be best to take it easy on the high-impact activities.
For instance, while it is perfectly okay to engage in running or jumping, consider it ideal to throw in some low-impact activities such as cycling and swimming.
Incorporating low-impact activities can help ensure your tendons are not strained.
Overexertion – as a general rule of thumb, refrain from engaging in activities that will put excessive strain on your Achilles tendons.
If you are going to do a strenuous activity, make sure to do your warm-ups first.
Also, when doing exercise routines, be sure to start slow and increase the duration and intensity as you go along.
Stretching – to enhance flexibility, stretch your calf muscles and Achilles tendon in the morning before and after doing your exercise routine.