Since Kevin Durant went down with an Achilles injury, we’re guessing a lot of you out there are wondering about the Achilles tendon. Athletes may be worrying they’ll face a similar fate. So, athletes and weekend warriors alike, ask yourselves these questions:
Do you have pain in the back of your heel? A bump behind your heel that kills you in shoes? Is the pain worse after you work out or train? Is it excruciating in the morning when you wake up? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may have Achilles tendonitis. This is a common problem in runners, basketball stars like Durant as well as soccer players and other athletes. It can even be brought on by minimalist shoes or their polar opposite, high heels.
What is Achilles tendonitis?
It’s an inflammation of the large tendon in the back of the ankle. It is caused by overuse, repetitive motion or faulty footwear. Achilles problems usually cause symptoms like pain and swelling at the back of the heel or ankle. Tendinitis is made worse by activity, and with the first few steps you take in the morning.
What Causes Achilles Tendonitis?
As mentioned, tendinitis is common with athletes. Why is that the case? Because, the most common causes of Achilles tendonitis are:
· Tightness of heel cord
· Overpronation (flat, very flexible feet)
· Over training
· Too much speed or hill work during runs
· Increasing mileage or practice time too quickly
Other causes include:
· Wearing high heels
· Haglund's deformity (bump at the back of your heel bone which is irritating your tendon)
Unfortunately, the older we get, the more likely we are to struggle with Achilles tendonitis. That’s because, with each year that passes, our tendons get tighter and our bodies become less flexible.
Symptoms of Tendonitis
As mentioned, the main symptom of Achilles tendonitis is pain behind the heel. The pain can be right at the heel bone (the calcaneys) but is often most noticeable in an area about 2-4 centimeters above where the tendon attaches to the heel.
The pain is usually worst after exercise, when you first wake up in the morning and when you get up after sitting for a long time. Sometimes, it will hurt when you’re active—and that’s when it’s time to worry! Tendinitis pain that presents with movements like running or jumping could mean your tendon is about to rupture—ouch!
Achilles Tendonitis Treatments
Treatment of Achilles tendonitis begins with a thorough examination and x-rays.
With tendinitis, your X-rays may be normal, but an extra bone may also show up. Sometimes, you may need an MRI to determine whether or not your tendon has begun to tear.
Once you know the extent of your tendinitis, you may need to slow down your training or even call off all activity for a little while.
Many of our Elmhurst area patients benefit from braces that stabilize and decrease swelling around the tendon. Ice, anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy also work well in managing this condition.
In particularly difficult cases a period of immobilization by cam walker or cast may be necessary. While most people improve with conservative care, failure to respond may lead to surgery. It’s important to treat tendon pain early on, since Achilles tendonitis can progress to Achilles tendinosis (a chronic degeneration of the tendon that can lead to it tearing.) If you are struggling with tendon pain and need relief, don’t wait until you go down on the basketball court or by the side of the road. Schedule a consultation at Prairie Path Foot & Ankle clinic so you can begin your path to healing.