Achilles tendonitis is an injury to the Achilles tendon that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. It usually afflicts people who are unaccustomed to regular exercise but suddenly start off on high intensity exercises; it also affects runners.
Consider the following scenarios:
Mr. X has discovered the joy of running. While running is undoubtedly a great form of exercise, Mr. X’s enthusiasm has led him to not only running everyday but also increasing the distance he runs quite appreciably. Mr. X did not realize that his body needed time to adjust to his new found passion for running. As a result, he is feeling pain in the heel that worsens with exercise.
Mr. Y on the other hand is a seasoned athlete. But the mistake Mr. Y did was to increase his exercise intensity in spite of experiencing stiffness in his calf muscle. Unknowingly, Mr. Y further strained his Achilles tendon and is experiencing severe pain the day after the exercise.
Mr. Z, unlike Mr. X and Mr. Y, cannot blame the heel pain and tendon thickening that he is experiencing on exercise. Mr. Z has a bone spur (extra bone growth) at the point where the Achilles tendon joins the heel bone. The rubbing of the bone spur against the tendon is causing swelling of the tendon and consequently heel pain.
In all the above cases, Achilles tendonitis was the result. Thus the symptoms for Achilles tendonitis include:
- Heel pain
- Heel tenderness
- Stiffness in the lower leg
- Swelling of the Achilles tendon
- Pain experienced in the tendon in the morning
- Pain the day after exercise
- Pain on squeezing the sides of the tendon
In some cases, Achilles tendon rupture can take place. This is characterized by a sharp pain behind the ankle possibly accompanied by a ‘popping’ sound. In such a case, it is necessary to consult a doctor without delay.
As is always stressed, prevention is better than cure. Here are a few pointers which will help in minimizing the possibility of developing Achilles tendonitis:
- Stretching the muscles and performing calf strengthening exercises makes the calf muscles stronger. Hence the calf muscles can withstand more force.
- Alternating high intensity workouts with low intensity ones. This gives the calf muscles enough time to recover.
- Increasing workout intensity gradually. Let enthusiasm not cloud reasoning when it comes to working out.
- Choosing surfaces that are conducive to running. By avoiding hard running surfaces and wearing shoes that have cushioned heels, Achilles tendonitis can be avoided.
It would indeed also be useful to know that certain people are more susceptible towards developing Achilles tendonitis:
- Men are more prone than women.
- Ageing increases the chances of Achilles tendonitis.
- People whose feet have a flat arch are also more prone to it.
- Psoriasis and increased blood pressure too heightens the chances.
- Cold weather and mountainous terrain play a role as well.