The Achilles Tendon is the largest tendon in the human body, but that is not why we need to know about it. We need to know about it to protect ourselves from various conditions of Achilles tendonitis. The Achilles tendon connects the heel to the calf, and in doing so passes through a narrow passage just above the heel bone that restricts supplies of blood and oxygen to the area. This predisposes the heel to any of the three medical conditions that occur in Achilles Tendonitis. The main function of the Achilles tendon is to connect the heel to the rest of the body, and allow the heel to rise so we can stand, walk and run on our toes. Because of the location and the function of the Achilles tendon, it constitutes one of the pressure points in the body that when stressed or ruptured, causes Achilles tendonitis that can disable an athlete as well as someone who is not fond of physical activity.
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*Cases that require extra attention to heal may be interested in shockwave therapy, which has an excellent track record of success treating Achilles tendonitis. The Electra Health Floor has a Physiotherapist who specializes in shockwave therapy (it’s painless). Read more about shockwave therapy and Achilles tendonitis at the Electra Health Floor.
Any of the following factors can cause Achilles tendonitis:
- Overuse and overload of the leg, foot or the heel area
- Sudden increase in physical activity
- Denial of sufficient recovery time
- Old age and inactive lifestyle
- Overpronation or under pronation of the foot
- Accident and injury affecting the heel
Achilles Tendonitis Symptoms:
Achilles tendonitis involves three medical conditions:
And each condition has its own distinct symptoms.
1. Tendonitis Injury Symptoms
The pain in Achilles Tendonitis sets in gradually, and affects people of all ages. Look for the following symptoms to identify tendonitis of Achilles tendon:
- Feeling of stiffness in heel or foot
- Heel pain
- Pain in the Achilles tendon
- Thickening of the Achilles tendon
- Pain with motion
- Tenderness in heel
- Palpable tendon
2. Rupture Injury Symptoms
Mostly affecting people in their twenties, this is a serious condition of Achilles tendonitis that does not allow activity, yet it is harder to identify due to the nature of its symptoms.
- The pain however, is sudden at the onset: Patients suffering from rupture explain the feeling as a kick in the back ankle.
- Often injury is accompanied by a “popping” sound or feeling in the ankle.
- Pain can be mild to moderate.
- Rupture does not allow continuation of any physical activity, in particular, toe-raise.
- Swelling in ankle or heel.
- Palpable Achilles tendon.
- Swelling or pain in the small knot or Bulgeat Proximal part of Achilles tendon.
- Thompson test results come out abnormal.
3. Bursitis Injury Symptoms
The pain with Bursitis of Achilles tendon sets in gradually, affecting people in their forties the most:
- Pain in the back of heel.
- Pain worsens at the start of physical activity.
- Pain subsides after rest.
- Pain is experienced most when wearing shoes.
- If the condition persists untreated, a limp develops.
- Tenderness in heel.
- Palpable bursa.
Tendonitis Injury Treatments
Tendonitis is the most common form of the ailments of Achilles Tendonitis, and may be caused by the following conditions:
- A sudden increase in physical activity
- Increasing physical activity without sufficient preparation
- Inappropriate, uncomfortable or ill-fitting footwear
- Over or under pronation of foot
- Achilles tendon or the foot muscles are stiff or inflexible
The recommended Achilles tendonitis treatments are as follows (recovery time may take a few weeks to months depending on the state of injury and general health conditions of a patient);
NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) pronounced as en-saids, are prescription drugs for pain relief, reduction of inflammation, lowering fevers and preventing blood from clotting. However, there are known side effects that range from the onset of nausea, easy bruising, and stomach dysfunction to ulcers and interference with kidney function. Make sure to discuss any concerns you may have with your doctor.
RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation, and has been found to be the most effective way of treating Achilles tendonitis, and a one that if applied correctly, has no negative side effects.
Rest or stillness of Achilles heel tendon, will slow down the flow of blood to the tendon, reducing the possibility of further injury.
Ice reduces swelling, bleeding and pain. Apply immediately after the injury. Use a bag of crushed ice, a block of ice, cold packs, a bag of frozen peas, or cold water. Caution: do not apply ice directly to the skin, it can cause an ice burn or skin damage, so use a damp cloth or towel as a wrapper. The duration and frequency of ice application depends on the injury but as a rule of thumb, 15 to 20 minutes of ice every couple of hours will do well in the first 72 hours of injury. Depending on your tolerance for cold, you can also reduce the duration and increase the frequency, for example, 5 minutes two three times an hour.
Compression bandages are effective in reducing swelling and bleeding of the Achilles tendon as well as providing support and protection to Achilles heel, ankle and foot. Use a firm and flexible compression bandage to major part of the foot, ankle and lower leg.
Elevation also helps reduce swelling and bleeding, and requires the injured foot or leg to stay above the level of heart for a period of time.
When you are able to resume physical activity, increase the time spent on warm-up and stretching prior to the sport or action.
Heel lifting exercises
At one level of recovery, performing heel-lifting exercises can speed the healing process.
Rupture Injury Treatments
Rupture injury of Achilles tendonitis is caused by sudden over-reaching movements of the leg, heel or foot; and by a state of chronic tendonitis. It is a serious medical condition that may require surgery and may need long-term inactivity or immobilization of the Achilles tendon to recover.
Rupture injuries may take anywhere from 6 to 12 months to heal.
Bursitis Injury Treatments
Bursitis injuries may heal by wearing low-riding shoes, applying NSAIDs, RICE, stretching, massage and by wearing heel cups.
Wellness Tips from Mark Bentz
An easy Yoga routine can keep the achilles tendon lengthened, flexible and healthy by assuring regular soft stretching and more blood supply to the heel, reducing incidence of achilles tendonitis.
- Perform in a standing position.
- Make sure that the spine is straight and back muscles are relaxed.
- You may place your hands on the hipbone or leave them hanging on both sides.
- Slowly raise your body on your toes as you inhale.
- Hold your breath as you stand on your toes.
- Exhale as you bring your body slowly down to an inch of the ground.
- Hold and then repeat.
Begin from ten and increase the number to eighty over a week, go steady observing the changes in heel and ankle with the instance of rising each time.
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