Achilles tendinitis. Achilles
tendonitis is inflammation of the Achilles tendon, the largest tendon in the body, which runs from the calf to the heel bone. Noninsertional Achilles tendonitis affects fibers in the middle of the
tendon. Insertional Achilles tendonitis affects the lower portion of the tendon where it attaches to the heel bone. Both types can result from repetitive stress to the tendon or from overstressing
the tendon during exercise. Damaged tendon fibers can calcify and bone spurs can form where the tendon attaches to the bone. Symptoms may include pain and stiffness of the tendon - which may occur
from either inactivity (such as first thing in the morning) or after activity - thickening or swelling of the tendon or bone spurs.
When you place a large amount of stress on your Achilles tendon too quickly, it can become inflamed from tiny tears that occur during the activity. Achilles tendonitis is often a result of
overtraining, or doing too much too soon. Excessive hill running can contribute to it. Flattening of the arch of your foot can place you at increased risk of developing Achilles tendonitis because of
the extra stress placed on your Achilles tendon when walking or running.
Symptoms of Achilles tendonitis include, pain in the back of the heel, difficulty walking, sometimes the pain makes walking impossible, swelling, tenderness and warmth of the Achilles tendon.
Achilles tendonitis is graded according to how severe it is, mild - pain in the Achilles tendon during a particular activity (such as running) or shortly after. Moderate - the Achilles tendon may
swell. In some cases, a hard lump (nodule) may form in the tendon. Severe - any type of activity that involves weight bearing causes pain of the Achilles tendon. Very occasionally, the Achilles
tendon may rupture (tear). When an Achilles tendon ruptures, it is said to feel like a hard whack on the heel.
Examination of the achilles tendon is inspection for muscle atrophy, swelling, asymmetry, joint effusions and erythema. Atrophy is an important clue to the duration of the tendinopathy and it is
often present with chronic conditions. Swelling, asymmetry and erythema in pathologic tendons are often observed in the examination. Joint effusions are uncommon with tendinopathy and suggest the
possibility of intra-articular pathology. Range of motion testing, strength and flexibility are often limited on the side of the tendinopathy. Palpation tends to elicit well-localized tenderness that
is similar in quality and location to the pain experienced during activity. Physical examinations of the Achilles tendon often reveals palpable nodules and thickening. Anatomic deformities, such as
forefoot and heel varus and excessive pes planus or foot pronation, should receive special attention. These anatomic deformities are often associated with this problem. In case extra research is
wanted, an echography is the first choice of examination when there is a suspicion of tendinosis. Imaging studies are not necessary to diagnose achilles tendonitis, but may be useful with
differential diagnosis. Ultrasound is the imaging modality of first choice as it provides a clear indication of tendon width, changes of water content within the tendon and collagen integrity, as
well as bursal swelling. MRI may be indicated if diagnosis is unclear or symptoms are atypical. MRI may show increased signal within the Achilles.
Physical therapy is the first and most useful defense for achilles tendonitis because of the two presentations outlined above. Treatments for the two types are quite different in approach.
Midsubstance tendinitis responds well to stretching, whereas insertional tendnitis tends to be aggravated more by it. Depend on your trusted physical therapist to differentiate between the two and
follow their guidelines on exercises and running modifications. Running gait patterns that show excessive ?sinking postures? tend to point to the source of achilles tendon problems. Altering your
gait in the midstance phase of the cycle can reduce the load on the tendon dramatically and thereby reduce pain. Rely on your running physical therapist for proper guidance on altering your gait the
right way. Stride Strong?s Portland Running Clinic gait analysis can identify and fix potential issues before pain sets in. Icing at the onset of acute achilles pain (i.e. when the injury is fresh
and new) would help control the inflammation. Your next step should be to call our number for an appointment.
Not every Achilles tendon injury or condition requires surgery. It is generally understood by doctors and surgeons, that surgery will introduce more scar tissue into the Achilles tendon. This added
scar tissue will be problematic, requiring physical therapy and conservative treatment options post-surgery. If not dealt with properly, your ankle and Achilles tendon could end up in worse condition
than before the surgery! This is why surgery is only performed as a last resort.
Regardless of whether the Achilles injury is insertional or non-insertional, a great method for lessening stress on the Achilles tendon is flexor digitorum longus exercises. This muscle, which
originates along the back of the leg and attaches to the tips of the toes, lies deep to the Achilles. It works synergistically with the soleus muscle to decelerate the forward motion of the leg
before the heel leaves the ground during propulsion. This significantly lessens strain on the Achilles tendon as it decelerates elongation of the tendon. Many foot surgeons are aware of the
connection between flexor digitorum longus and the Achilles tendon-surgical lengthening of the Achilles (which is done to treat certain congenital problems) almost always results in developing hammer
toes as flexor digitorum longus attempts to do the job of the recently lengthened tendon. Finally, avoid having cortisone injected into either the bursa or tendon-doing so weakens the tendon as it
shifts production of collagen from type one to type three. In a recent study published in the Journal of Bone Joint Surgery(9), cortisone was shown to lower the stress necessary to rupture the
Achilles tendon, and was particularly dangerous when done on both sides, as it produced a systemic effect that further weakened the tendon.