Where is the Achilles tendon?
To start off, a tendon is a band of connective tissue that attaches muscles to bones, and they are capable of withstanding a considerable amount of tension.
The Achilles tendon, also called the calcaneal tendon, is the connective band of tissue that connects the calf muscles at the back of the lower leg all the way to the heel bone. It is the largest and strongest tendon, that allows jumping, climbing stairs and standing on the toes.
Despite being able to withstand a lot of tension, the Achilles tendon is also susceptible to injury mainly due to its limited blood supply. There are 4 common ways of injuring this tendon:
- Achilles tendon tear
- Achilles tendon rupture
- Achilles bursitis, or lastly,
- Achilles tendinitis
Today’s article will focus on the 4th common injury – Achilles tendinitis.
Causes of Achilles tendinitis:
This type of infection is common in athletes participating in endurance exercises like long distance running, but it can also happen to walkers who want to set new personal bests.
Basically, any repeated activity that causes strain to the Achilles tendon can cause tendinitis, some of which are:
- improper warmup prior to exercise, i.e., sudden increased exercise that does not allow the body to adjust to increased intensity
- repeated exercise that puts the calf muscles under strain
- participating in strenuous sports like squash or tennis, both of which require sudden stops and directional changes
- bone spurs
- ill-fitting sportswear
- using high heels for long periods of time
Symptoms to look out for:
Here are some symptoms related to Achilles tendinitis to look out for:
- tight calf muscles
- having a limited range of motion when flexing the foot
- swelling and a warm feeling in the back of the heel
A consultation with a medical practitioner will include some physical tests to observe your range of motion and flexibility.
Physical signs your medical practitioner will look out for are warmth, discoloration around the heel and leg, swelling and pain, which can be done by feeling around the affected area. Physical examinations can determine Achilles tendinitis without a rupture, and usually do not need further testing.
A Thompson test may be done. The medical practitioner will squeeze your calf while you are lying on your stomach or kneeling on a chair, where the end of the foot should respond by moving in a downward direction. If your foot doesn’t move downward, this could indicate an Achilles tendon rupture.
Your medical practitioner may do a Matles test, which is another test for tendon rupture. You will be asked to lay face down and slowly bend your knee to a right angle (90°). If the toe end does not point away slightly from the leg, it could also indicate an Achilles tendon rupture.
You may be asked to stand on the balls of your feet, undergo x-rays (to identify bone or joint problems but not Achilles tendinitis), an MRI scan (to detect tissue degeneration or ruptures), or an ultrasound (to show tendon movement, inflammation and related damage)
Treatments for Achilles Tendinitis:
Options which your medical practitioner may suggest depending on an individual’s condition will include:
- OTC (over the counter) pain relievers
- prescription pain relievers for severe pain
- RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) therapy
- heat therapy
- physical therapy where the affected tendons are stretched
- orthotics which are prescription medical devices worn inside shoes
- splints or foot braces
- surgery – for severe cases
This article is intended to provide a general outline on Achilles tendinitis, and should be in no way taken as medical advice. Further detailed information should be obtained from your family doctor or a medical practitioner who will be able to diagnose your ailment correctly and suggest treatments suitable for you.
30th June 19:55