Achilles tendinitis affects both the young and the old, but it is often due to overuse or repetitive stress, such as jumping and running. Symptoms include pain and swelling in the lower leg and back of the heel that worsens during the day and with activity. Surgery is not usually necessary and treatment often includes pain medications, physical therapy and supportive shoes or orthotics.
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Anatomy of Achilles Tendinitis
The Achilles tendon, the largest tendon in the body, connects the gastrocnemius, or calf muscle, to the calcaneous, or heel bone. Simply put, inflammation of the tendon can result with repetitive stress or sudden increase in use. When the toes and heel strike the ground during high-impact activity, force travels through the bones and muscles of the foot and leg. The muscles responds with a contraction, and the tendon undergoes repetitive stretching and tightening. Inflammation can lead to thickening and hardening of the tendon.
Types of Achilles Tendinitis
The most common type in young active people is called non-insertional Achilles tendinitis. This type primarily affects the part of the tendon above the heel. Older or less active persons are more likely to suffer from insertional Achilles tendinitis, in which the tendon is inflamed at insertion into the calcaneous. If you have this type, you may be prone to developing a bone spur.
Wear shoes with increased heel support. Many running shoes on the market have extra heel cushioning. The American Podiatric Medical Association has developed a list of brand it feels are helpful in addressing orthopedic woes, including Asics, Orthaheel and Reebok. Be sure your shoes fit correctly, and replace them if the soles are wearing down.
A heel lift or pad is beneficial in reducing force on the Achilles tendon. If your shoes are rubbing uncomfortably on your tendon, you can wear a silicone Achilles sleeve or bandage wrap. In addition to providing more comfort and stability, shoe inserts may provide enhanced sensory feedback to the calf muscles so that they do not become overloaded.