Achilles Tendinitis 101: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments
According to the Greek myth, Achilles was vulnerable only at his heel. It's a trait that he must have passed down to all other humans when he gave his name to the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone.
The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the human body and can withstand forces of 1,000 pounds or more. But it is also the most frequently ruptured tendon, and both professional and weekend athletes can suffer from Achilles tendinitis, a common overuse injury and inflammation of the tendon.
Any number of events may trigger an attack of Achilles tendinitis, including:
- rapidly increasing your running mileage or speed
- adding hill running or stair climbing to your training routine
- starting up too quickly after a layoff
- trauma caused by sudden and/or hard contraction of the calf muscles when putting out extra effort such as in a final sprint
- overuse resulting from the natural lack of flexibility in the calf muscles
Achilles Tendon Treatments
A program of home exercises to stretch your Achilles tendon and plantar fascia are the mainstays of treating the condition and lessening the chance of recurrence. You can also apply ice to the sore area for 20 minutes three or four times a day to relieve your symptoms.
Achilles Exercise 1
Lean forward against a wall with one knee straight and heel on the ground. Your other knee is bent. Your heel cord and foot arch stretch as you lean. Hold for 10 seconds, relax and straighten up. Repeat 20 times for each sore heel.
Achilles Exercise 2
Lean forward onto a countertop, spreading your feet apart with one foot in front of the other. Flex your knees and squat down, keeping your heels on the ground as long as possible. Your heel cords and foot arches will stretch as the heels come up in the stretch. Hold for 10 seconds, relax and straighten up. Repeat 20 times times
About 90 percent of people with plantar fasciitis improve significantly after two months of initial treatment. If your plantar fasciitis continues after a few months of conservative treatment, your doctor may inject your heel with steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (corticosteroid). If you still have symptoms, you may need to wear a walking cast or boot for 2-3 weeks or positional splint when you sleep. In a few cases, you might need surgery to release your ligament.