The Achilles tendon is tremendously strong, connecting the muscles in the lower legs with those in the heel, thus enabling walking and running. Without the ability of this tendon to deal with massive pressure, sometimes several times the weight of the body, humans will not be able to walk, run or jump. When the tendon becomes inflamed and irritated, Achilles tendonitis can develop, causing sufferers a great deal of discomfort and foot pain.
How Does the Condition Come About?
Many people that partake in vigorous sports activities fail to stretch their muscles prior to taxing physical activities, and therefore place the tendon under an unacceptable amount of pressure. Sports that require a lot of jumping, such as basketball for example, are one of the most common causes of the condition with younger people. Inflammation that leads to this condition can quickly develop in cases of physical injury to the ankle, calf or lower leg. Sometimes new bone grows at the base of the heel and this growth may prove to be an irritant to the tendon, eventually leading to Achilles tendonitis in older people.
What are the Main Indicators of the Condition?
One of the surest indicators of Achilles tendonitis is severe foot pain or pain behind the heel. The pain is not always acute, but almost all patients experience increased levels of pain when the muscles of the ankle, calf and foot have not been in use for some time. Most patients report tenderness and swelling in the area of the tendon, and jumping or pushing often result in sever, sudden pain. Standing on the toes is often excruciating.
What are the Options for Treatment?
There are several treatment options for Achilles tendonitis, ranging from shoe insoles to drastic surgical interventions. Rest is regarded as one of the most important treatment, and often specialists will go as far as to immobilize the foot to make sure that all the muscles rest. Lifting the heel by means of special shoe insoles can also help to relieve the pressure on the tendon. Ice packs that is often applied to the affected area helps to improve the blood flow, and this contributes to relieve the foot pain somewhat. Anti-inflammatory medication can contribute towards bringing the infection under control, and shoe insoles may also help to lessen the pain.
Physical therapy forms an important part of any treatment program, and patients have to build the strength and suppleness of their muscles with a specially designed exercise regime. Surgery is not readily undertaken, and most foot specialists prefer to first exhaust all other options. Most surgical procedures that aim to treat Achilles tendonitis concentrate upon the removal of a part of the tendon and subsequent lengthening of the remaining part.
Can One Do Something to Prevent it?
Most sportsmen know how important it is to avoid foot pain by completing a series of stretching and warming up exercises before they subject their bodies to the rigors of exercise. Strong muscles and tendons that are kept flexible with regular aerobic exercises are less likely to be injured.