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Achilles tendonitis is a common condition that causes pain along the back of the leg or near the heel. The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body. It connects your calf muscle to your heel bone and is used when you walk, run, and jump.
Although the Achilles tendon can withstand great stresses from running and jumping, it is also prone to tendonitis.
A condition associated with overuse and degeneration- most common in runners, jumping athletes, or those increasing intensity/frequency of their current exercise regimen.
To learn more about a torn Achilles tendon, please watch this video by Dr. Turner Vosseller.
Symptoms of Achilles tendonitis includes, but is not limited to:
If you have experienced a “pop” in the back of your calf or heel, you may have ruptured your Achilles tendon. See your doctor immediately if you think you may have torn your tendon.
After you describe your symptoms and discuss your concerns, your doctor will conduct a thorough exam.
Your doctor may order imaging tests to ensure that the tendon or bone has not been compromised in any way. X-rays and MRIs are the most common use of imaging for this specific injury. It is important to differentiate the symptoms from another common condition of the foot, plantar fasciitis.
In most cases, nonsurgical treatment options will provide pain relief, although it may take a few months for symptoms to completely subside. The RICE technique is usually a good start when trying to heal a tendon.
Even with early treatment of Achilles Tendonitis, the pain may last longer than 3 months.
If you have had pain for several months before seeking treatment, it may take 6 months before the treatment methods take effect.
Nonsurgical treatment of tendonitis include: Rest, ice NSAIDs, physical therapy, cortisone injections, laser, and supportive shoes or orthotics.
Here are 3 static Achilles tendon stretches you can perform at home to address Achilles pain, static Achilles tendon stretches should be performed post-activity:
Gastrocnemius Stretch: Place the leg to be stretched behind and lean forward. This can be repeated several times a day and should not be painful. A stretch should be felt at the back of the lower leg. A more advanced version of a calf stretch is to use a step and drop your heel down.
Soleus Stretch: To stretch the soleus muscle the back leg should be bent. Place the leg to be stretched behind and lean against a wall keeping the heel down. A stretch should be felt lower down nearer the ankle at the back of the leg.
Stretching on a Step: This stretch can be performed to further the stretch on the calf muscles and Achilles. Stand on a step with your toes on the step and the heels off the back. Carefully lower the heels down below the level of the step until you feel a stretch - make sure you have something to hold on to! This should be performed with the knee straight and then repeated with the knee bent to make sure you are stretching both muscles
If you are looking to stretch your Achilles tendon prior to activity, it is best to incorporate dynamic movements to prep the body for the work it is about to perform.
Walking calf raises, eccentric calf raises off a step, or walking toe-touches are good stretches to perform prior to working out.
Once you are feeling better, prevention is key. Keep in mind that mileage should be increased appropriately, and intensity should range throughout the week.
Do not over stretch your Achilles tendon and focus on strengthening surrounding musculature in the hips and glutes.
Keep track of the mileage on your running shoes, and change them when appropriate. You also want to make sure that you are running with the right shoe.
If you want to learn more about the foot anatomy and the foot ligaments, go to foot anatomy.
To schedule an appointment for physical therapy or for orthotics, please call 904-858-7045.
Related Articles: Flexibility, Best Hamstring Stretches and Direct Access to Physical Therapy.
By: Megan Burke, ATC
To schedule an appointment with a JOI Foot and Ankle Specialist, please call 904-JOI-2000, schedule online or link below.