It is estimated that Achilles tendonitis accounts for nearly 11% of all running injuries.
The Achilles tendon - the longest tendon in the body - is critical to your mobility. It enables you to walk by helping raise your heel off the ground.
Simply put, Achilles tendonitis is an inflammation of the Achilles tendon. It's typically short-lived when it's treated early. However, if left untreated the condition can progress to a more serious degeneration of the tendon (Achilles tendinosis) that includes the development of microscopic tears.
Sometimes the degeneration involves the site where the Achilles tendon attaches to the heel bone. In rare cases, chronic degeneration with or without pain may result in a complete rupture of the tendon.
Treatment and Prevention
Depending on the severity of your Achilles tendonitis, your physician may take one or a combination of treatment approaches. The decision is based upon how long you've had the injury and the degree of damage to the tendon.
In the early stage, when there is sudden inflammation, one or more of the following options may be recommended:
- Immobilization. A cast or removable walking boot will reduce forces through the Achilles tendon and promote healing.
- Ice. Ice. Cold therapy can reduce swelling due to inflammation. Do not put ice directly against the skin.
- Oral medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may be helpful in reducing the pain and inflammation.
- Physical therapy.This may include strengthening exercises, soft-tissue massage/mobilization, gait and running re-education, stretching and ultrasound therapy.
Wearing the right shoes for your foot type and activity level is an easy way to help prevent Achilles tendonitis.
After treatment, keep Achilles tendonitis or tendinosis from coming back with daily strengthening and stretching exercises for your calf muscles. In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to restore the tendon to its normal condition. Refer to our Achilles tendonitis FAQ if you have more questions about the condition.
Don't ignore the early warning signs of Achilles tendonitis or it may become a chronic condition that is very difficult to treat. Take action early to improve the effectiveness of your recovery and limit the chances of the injury recurring.