In Greek mythology, a hero named Achilles had only one weakness: the back of his heel, along the major tendon. While you’re not a millennia-old warrior, your own tendon, named after Achilles, can be a weak point for you as well. This crucial connector is responsible for much of your foot movement, so when conditions like Achilles tendonitis weaken it, you feel the loss.
Injuring a Main Mover
Achilles tendonitis is an uncomfortable and common overuse injury that causes pain and weakness along the back of the lower leg. As your Achilles tendon grows more and more strained, the tissue becomes inflamed and irritated. This important connector attaches your calf muscle to your heel bone, allowing you to stand up on your toes and push off with each step when you walk. When this tendon is injured and inflamed, it becomes more difficult to use it—reducing your mobility.
As an overuse problem, the pain develops over time, increasing as your condition worsens. Usually it develops because your lower limbs were not conditioned to handle your activities. Starting a new exercise routine, sharply increasing your activities, repeated hard impacts, or over-exerting a tight tendon all stress the Achilles. Incorrect biomechanics from a preexisting problem or poorly-fitted shoes can also aggravate the connector.
Signs and Symptoms
You feel the pain the most along the back of the ankle, often near the spot where the tendon attaches to the heel bone. Your lower leg may feel stiff and weak, especially when you try to participate in athletic activities. Usually the discomfort is worse when you’re active and decreases when you rest. You may notice swelling along the tendon as well. As with any overuse injury, the problem will only worsen the longer it goes unaddressed.
Relieving the Discomfort
You will need to have your foot accurately diagnosed to rule out other possible causes of your pain. Dr. Darren Silvester and our expert staff at Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic will thoroughly evaluate your affected foot and use a variety of tests to determine the exact source of your discomfort. Then we can work out a treatment plan for your unique needs.
Achilles tendonitis typically responds well to conservative therapies. You will need to rest your uncomfortable limb for a time to allow it to heal. This will mean scaling back your activities—or taking a break from them altogether, if your condition is severe enough. Occasionally you may need to have your foot immobilized for a time to prevent further aggravation. You’ll also need to work to decrease the inflammation. Icing the tendon can help lower the irritation and the swelling. We may also recommend a variety of anti-inflammatory medicines to help manage the pain.
Most likely you will also need physical therapy to stretch out the tension in your Achilles. A tight tendon will only worsen the problem. Exercises can recondition the tissue for your activities, too. You will probably need to change your footwear to better stabilize your lower limbs. If you have a foot shape or faulty mechanic that contributes to the problem, you may need custom orthotics to correct this as well. Surgery only becomes an option when other non-invasive methods have failed to provide you with the relief you need.
Achilles tendonitis may be a common overuse problem, but that doesn’t make it less serious for your lower limbs. Allowing the condition to progress could actually result in serious complications later, like a tear in the tendon. Take care of your feet now and eliminate your pain. Request an appointment with Dr. Darren Silvester at Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic here in Pleasanton, TX. Call (830) 569-3338 or use our online contact form to reach us.