The Achilles tendon connects the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles in the calf to the calcaneus, or heel bone. That means it’s used for walking, running and jumping. But overuse can easily lead to Achilles tendonitis, inflammation that generally presents as redness, pain and swelling at the back of the heel. This is an extremely common overuse injury, and also one of the most common causes of heel pain (along with plantar fasciitis). Here’s what you need to know about it:
Causes and Prevention of Achilles Tendonitis
While the most general cause of Achilles tendonitis is overuse, it is most common in people who play a sport that involves a lot of jumping, people who run on hard surfaces, people who dramatically increase their activity level in a short amount of time, and people whose calf muscles are very tight. Wearing proper shoes, warming up, and stretching before and after activity are the best ways for you to prevent Achilles tendonitis without giving up high-impact activities. Custom-fitted podiatrist orthotics may also benefit some patients; if you’re interested, you should talk to a local podiatrist about the pros and cons of such a route.
Conservative Intervention for Achilles Tendonitis
Many people who have Achilles tendonitis experience it at a low but chronic level. If you’re among them, it’s likely your podiatrist will recommend trying a simple at-home regimen including reducing your activity level or improving technique, as well as reducing swelling through the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, elevation, braces or wrappings, and regular icing. This is known as the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) procedure.
Shockwave Treatment for Achilles Tendonitis
If your case is severe enough to prevent activity, your podiatrist may recommend shockwave treatment for Achilles tendonitis. This treatment, as its name suggests, sends shockwaves through the tissue, the purpose of which are to create very small tears, called microtears, in the tendon. This controlled trauma is thought to activate the body’s natural healing response, leading to a subsequent improvement in function. Shockwave treatment can be painful, but different strengths are offered, with the number of treatments required generally varying accordingly.
Are you considering shockwave treatment for Achilles tendonitis, or are you still following a more conservative at-home regimen? Discuss or ask any additional questions you might have in the comments.