You want to head out for a long walk along the Florida shores this morning, but when you get out of bed, the back of your ankle is stiff and achy. It is hard when your body doesn’t cooperate to let you do what you want. You think, “What did I do yesterday that could be causing the pain?” You wonder if it is serious, or if it will go away on its own. Pain at the back of your heel or ankle could be Achilles tendinitis, an inflammation that can get worse if you don’t take care of it.
When Tendons Are Damaged
This condition can take one of two forms. Insertional tendinitis occurs at the point that the Achilles is attached to the calcaneus (heel bone). It is often accompanied by a heel spur, an extra bone growth that forms because the tendon pulls against the bone’s growth plate. This type can happen to anyone who does an activity that their feet are not used to doing. So yesterday, when you tried to prove to your grandkids that you could still jump rope? Maybe that was not a good idea!
Noninsertional tendinitis happens in the middle section of your Achilles, above the heel and below where it attaches to the calf muscle. If you are more active, repetitive trauma to the feet from running long distances or suddenly upping your level of exercise can cause the tendon to stretch and tear.
What Achilles Tendinitis Feels Like
Pain is the universal sign that something is wrong. When your Achilles tendon is damaged, the pain can be a dull, achy feeling at the back of your ankle. If you pinch the tendon above your heel between your thumb and finger, it may feel tender, thick or swollen, or even hard and stiff. The pain will be worse when you are active, or the next morning after you’ve overdone it.
If you feel or hear a sudden popping sound during activity, the tendon may have ruptured completely. If this happens—don’t wait. Come in to Atlantic Foot & Ankle Associates and have it checked. We offer care for acute injuries within 24 hours (48 on weekends), and our offices have digital X-ray capability to help diagnose your problem quickly and conveniently. Prompt treatment is important so that you heal properly and don’t have chronic problems.
Treatments to Take Care of the Pain
Achilles tendinitis treatments range from simple RICE therapy to surgery, and every level in between. Once we determine how serious your injury is, we can recommend the right level of treatment. Rest, Icing the area, Compression bandages, and Elevation of the foot above your heart will all help keep pain and swelling to a minimum. We may also prescribe a pain reliever or anti-inflammatory medication. Many times, these are all you need to take care of a minor tendon injury.
For more difficult cases, we may try physical or EPAT therapy. In any case, if our examination reveals a basic structural or biomechanical issue, we may have you try exercises and stretches to strengthen muscles and relax the tendons. We may also design custom orthotics that will help rebalance the weight on your feet and head off future problems.
Preventing Achilles Tendinitis
There are things you can do to make Achilles problems less likely. Choose your shoes carefully, ease into any new activity, and warm up properly beforehand. Daily stretches of your calf muscles and Achilles will keep them limber and strong. It’s also a good idea to alternate low-impact activities, like biking or swimming, with those that strain your Achilles more, like running and jumping.
The expert podiatrists at Atlantic Foot & Ankle Associates will help you understand what’s causing your issues and what treatments will help. Give us a call at the numbers and locations below, and trust your foot health to our care.