The Achilles tendons might be the largest and strongest tendons in the human body—they have to be in order to keep us walking, standing, running and jumping throughout our lives—but that doesn’t mean they are indestructible. A common complaint among active adults, particularly middle-aged men, is Achilles tendinitis. This condition can be a nuisance, but it is also highly treatable and often responds well to self-care.
Overuse Leads to Pain
High-impact sports and activities such as running, basketball, and tennis place a lot of stress and strain on the Achilles tendons. Conditioned athletes can generally avoid Achilles issues with proper training and gradually building-up their physical tolerance, but those who qualify as “weekend warriors” (men and women who are only active on the weekends) tend to be more susceptible to injuries. This is especially true for men in their 30s or 40s, since tendons tend to weaken with age. Other risk factors for the condition include obesity, flat feet, high blood pressure, and even certain medications.
Repetitive strain causes tiny fibers in the Achilles to fray and tear. When these fibers break down, the body responds with inflammation and swelling in the area. You will likely experience discomfort, which can range from a dull, mild ache to significant pain. This is particularly evident during athletic activities. Other common symptoms include stiffness and tenderness, a thickening of the tissue at the site of the injury, and even bone spurs in the area where the tendon inserts into the heel.
Conservative Treatment Options
The good news is that, when treated early, Achilles tendinitis usually responds well to non-invasive home care, although it may take up to 3 months or more for symptoms to fully subside.
First, significantly decrease (or even completely stop) any athletic activities that led to the discomfort. In order to maintain your fitness, replace these activities by cross-training with low-impact exercises such as cycling, swimming, or strength training. Gentle stretches, particularly the standing calf stretch, are also helpful. Acute pain can be managed with aid of ice and over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen and naproxen.
Depending on the extent of the tendon damage, we may recommend further conservative treatments. These can include additional physical therapy exercises, modifications to footwear, shoe inserts, orthotics, or a walking boot. Heel lifts are often especially effective, as they minimize strain on the heel cord.
Achilles Tendon Surgery
When non-invasive treatments have been ineffective, or a case is particularly severe, surgery may be recommended. A number of procedures are available, depending on your specific situation. Some of the potential options include:
- Surgically lengthening your calf muscle (gastrocnemius recession)
- Removing damaged tissue and repairing the remaining portion of the tendon (debridement)
- Transferring a healthy tendon (usually the one that helps move your big toe downward) to fortify and repair the Achilles tendon
Recovery times vary based on the amount of damage that needs to be repaired. In some instances, you may require up to 12 months of rehab before a full, pain-free recovery.
Professional Achilles Tendinitis Treatment
Achilles tendon injuries can cause pain and take away your ability to perform favorite physical activities, but you don’t have to live with the condition. Instead, contact Richardson Podiatry Associates and we will be glad to help. Our Richardson, TX office provides care for a wide range of foot and ankle issues, so give us a call at (972) 690-5374 and find out what we can do for you. If you’d prefer, schedule your appointment with us online today and we will look forward to seeing you and providing the foot care you need!