If you have ever experienced shooting pain up your calf when you exercise or stiffness around the heel when you wake up in the morning, you may be suffering from a condition known as Achilles tendonitis.
The symptoms associated with Achilles tendonitis starts typically with a slight pain above the heel or in the back of the leg after running or participating in a sports activity. Incidents of more intense pain may arise after an extended run, sprinting, or climbing stairs.
What is Achilles Tendonitis?
Achilles tendonitis occurs when the Achilles tendon, which attaches your calf muscles to the bone in your heel, becomes inflamed resulting in swelling, pain, and irritation.
There are two different types of Achilles tendonitis depending on the part of the tendon that is injured. Each type of tendonitis requires slightly different treatment, so it is important to get a proper assessment performed to determine the best course of treatment.
The first type is non-insertional Achilles tendonitis in which the fibers in the middle part of the tendon begin to break down or tear, is commonly diagnosed in younger people who are highly active.
The second type is insertional Achilles tendonitis affects the lower part of the tendon where it inserts into the heel bone. This type is often seen in older patients or people who have been highly active for a long period of time and is very common in long-distance runners. Inactive people can also experience tendonitis.
Causes of Achilles Tendonitis
Achilles tendonitis is usually not the result of any specific injury but occurs from repeated stress on the tendon over time. Excessive levels of high impact activity such as endurance running or pushing your body beyond its comfort zone without adequate rest can cause Achilles tendonitis. However, there are also many causes of tendonitis that are not related to sports injuries.
Rheumatoid arthritis has been linked with an increased likelihood of experiencing Achilles tendonitis. Wearing poorly fitting shoes or high heels for extended periods of time can also cause tightness or weaken calf muscles leading to tendonitis. People with bone spurs on the heel can experience tendonitis where the bone rubs against the tendon. Finally, aging can lead to tendonitis as muscles and tendons become weaker as you age.
It is important to seek treatment as early as possible if you are diagnosed with Achilles tendonitis as the condition will worsen if left untreated. Fortunately, for mild cases, some simple Achilles tendonitis treatments can be performed at home to help alleviate the pain and eliminate the inflammation.
Your health care practitioner will likely initially recommend you use the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate) method. This is most effective after you first notice the symptoms. Rest your injured Achilles tendon by keeping weight off it for 2 – 3 days. Use an ice pack to reduce the inflammation by keeping the ice on the injured area for 15 – 20 minutes then removing the ice until the area has warmed up again then repeating the process. Next, compress the area by wrapping with sports tape or bandages but not tight enough to reduce blood flow. Finally, elevate the injured leg above the level of your heart to reduce swelling.
Chiropractic treatments for Achilles tendonitis have been found to be highly effective in reducing pain and inflammation. The most common treatment for tendonitis is Active Release Techniques (ARTs). These techniques can help to break up the scar tissue around the area, improving blood flow to the area and speed up the healing process.
Other chiropractic treatments may include stretches and exercise to improve the mobility in the calf, foot, and ankle to restore normal patterns of movement to the area and reduce the strain on the tendon. Treatments to correct imbalance are also effective for reducing undue strain on the tendon and may help this notoriously slow-healing tendon to repair itself faster.
Prolonged or severe cases of Achilles tendonitis may require surgical treatments which may include calf lengthening surgery and removal of bone spurs and the damaged portion of the tendon. Even after the surgery, physical therapy is recommended to rehabilitate the area properly and can take up to 12 months before patients can move the treated area without pain.
The most effective way to prevent Achilles tendonitis is with an adequate warm-up and stretching routine before exercising and gradually building up activity levels. However, in cases where tendonitis is not due to overuse or excessive exercise, chiropractic treatments for Achilles tendonitis are an effective way to reduce pain and inflammation.