The strongest tendon in the body, the Achilles tendon, serves to connect the muscles of the heel with those in the lower leg. This tendon is subject to tremendous pressure and in cases of running or jumping it sometimes needs to manage up to twelve times the body weight. When the tendon becomes inflamed and irritated, Achilles tendonitis can develop, causing sufferers a great deal of discomfort and foot pain.
How Does Achilles Tendonitis Develop?
When the condition develops in young people, it can almost always be ascribed to overuse of the tendon due to a sudden frenzy of physical activity without warming up properly. Younger people that develop this condition often take part in sports and physical activities that require jumping and sudden sprints. When the ankle, foot or lower legs are injured, inflammation often results, and this may lead to Achilles tendonitis. Middle-aged and older people that contract Achilles tendonitis usually suffer from arthritis or they experience bone growth in the heel that inflames the tendon.
How Does One Recognize the Condition?
Foot pain and sharp pain behind the heel are often indicators of Achilles tendonitis. The pain is not always acute, but almost all patients experience increased levels of pain when the muscles of the ankle, calf and foot have not been in use for some time. The affected area may be swollen and sensitive to touch, and especially sharp pain may be experienced when pushing or jumping. Very few people with the condition can stand tippy-toe.
What Different Treatments are Available?
Most foot specialists treat the condition with non-invasive techniques such as shoe insoles and are usually successful. The most effective cure can often be achieved by ensuring that all the muscles in the foot, ankle and heel are rested for a prolonged period of time. Lifting the heel by means of special shoe insoles can also help to relieve the pressure on the tendon. It helps to apply ice to the area of inflammation because this will help to improve the blood flow, and it will provide some measure of relief from foot pain. Most specialists prescribe medication and salves that aim to lessen the pain while dealing with the inflammation at the same time.
Physical therapy forms an important part of any treatment program, and patients have to build the strength and suppleness of their muscles with a specially designed exercise regime. Surgery is generally not considered unless all other options have failed to produce results. Surgery is usually performed in order to remove the infected part of the tendon and to ensure that the remaining healthy part is re-attached to the heel.
Can Achilles Tendonitis be Prevented?
Foot pain and Achilles tendonitis often develop because athletes fail to make sure their muscles and tendons are made supple with stretching exercises before they place pressure upon the body. Fitness experts concur that the best way to prevent injury to the tendons and the muscles is to keep them as flexible as possible.