Achilles Tendonitis Guide: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

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What can start out as a simple running pain, can quickly escalate to something worse.

Achilles Tendonitis is all too common among runners, and can be a painful outcome for doing something that you love.

Learn the early symptoms and causes of achilles tendonitis, so you can equip yourself with the knowledge to prevent injury from happening in the future.

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The Signs and Symptoms

Achilles tendonitis starts out as a small pain, but can increase in severity. If your lower leg feels stiff or your tendon is tender to the touch, then it may be time to take your pain more seriously.

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Your body naturally sends a signal of inflammation when something is wrong and needs repair. If you experience stiff movement, then your body is alerting you about your tendon's deficiency to operate at its full potential.

Symptoms can progress to the tendon thickening and cause weakness in the leg. Pain may increase during or after running, especially if you have been sprinting or going uphill.

Ignoring the early signs of pain in your achilles will only lead to a worse outcome. The achilles is the thickest tendon in your body and takes on most of the pressure as you run. If pushed too much, you can potentially cause your achilles to rupture.

Be mindful of your pain levels and rest when needed. Visit your doctor immediately if your pain levels become unmanageable. If you pay attention to the early signs, you can avoid having your condition worsen.

Probable Cause

The achilles tendon is located at the back of your ankle and connects your calf to the back of your heel. Your achilles tendon can withstand a large amount of impact, but after awhile it may get fatigued and worn out, thus causing tendonitis.

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Achilles tendonitis is the inflammation of your achilles tendon. Swelling, irritation, or pain towards the back of your ankle are usually the first signs to appear for the two different kinds of achilles tendonitis.

Noninsertional achilles tendonitis happens when your tendon starts to degenerate and create tiny tears in the middle portion of the tendon. It occurs more often in younger runners that tend to push the limit for what their body can handle.

Insertional achilles tendonitis is pain in the lower part of the heel, which can cause bone spurs or calcified tendon fibers. It can occur in active and non active people.

The most severe circumstance for achilles tendonitis is having a rupture. If you hear a pop sound and experience intense pain, then your tendon may have torn, which may need surgical attention. Be sure to see a doctor to determine the severity of your injury and how to treat it.

The achilles can withstand an immense amount of stress, as it takes on most of the impact as you press your feet against the ground. However, it is vulnerable to injury with continual impact every day. By recognizing what causes achilles tendonitis, you can be mindful about avoiding having a damaged achilles in the long run.

Potential Risk Factors

Working out too much and improper exercises can leave the achilles tendon feeling more vulnerable to damage. Too much weight or continual impact on the lower body exhausts your tendon's strength, which can lead to continual pain.

Having a naturally flat arch can put you more at risk due to more pressure against the achilles as you do physical activity. By wearing the right shoes for your foot type and running style, you will be less likely to experience injury in the lower leg. Whether you need more cushioned shoes, or need support for wider feet, the right shoe is essential for preventing achilles tendonitis.

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Running in cold weather can also trigger injury, which means keeping your body warm as the weather changes is important. Be adaptable to the change of seasons by having the right shoes and socks that can keep you running healthy and strong.

Treatment Methods

Treatment can involve several methods to alleviate pain and rebuild strength. The first step is to cutback your training and rest. Your body needs adequate time to heal your damaged tendon, which means reducing your usual running routine.

Stretching your tendon can worsen the pain, and cause the tendon to be more vulnerable to rupture. Keep your calf lightly stretched and do a small amount of stretching after running. Consider incorporating cross training with less impact to give your tendon a break. Swimming or yoga can help stretch and build core strength, but with less impact on your body than running.

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Decrease Inflammation

To decrease swelling in your achilles tendon, consider using medications that can reduce pain and inflammation. Using ibuprofen or naproxen can help, as well as eating foods that are rich in Omega-3.

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If more traditional pain medications are hard on your stomach, consider using turmeric, which can naturally reduce swelling.

Not only do anti-inflammatory methods work, but also keeping your body properly hydrated before, during, and after a workout can help decrease your tendons and muscles from swelling.

Contrast Hydrotherapy

Consider icing your achilles tendon for twenty minutes at a time or trying contrast hydrotherapy to help encourage blood circulation. Contrasting temperatures on your achilles tendon can gently work your soft tissue and give your body the boost it needs to recover.

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You can either wrap your injury in hot and cold cloths, drizzle different temperatures on your injury, or completely immerse your achilles tendon in water.

Start with heat for two minutes and switch to cold for one minute. Gently increase the temperature extreme to what you can handle as you go.

Alternate between hot and cold three to six times before ending on cold.

Contrast hydrotherapy can also help with plantar fasciitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and shin splints.

Taping Can Help Stability

Taping can help give your tendon the support it needs. Check out KT Tape's tutorial on how to properly tape your achilles tendon to give your body better stability and strength.

Braces and Compression Gear for Support

An ankle brace or compression gear specifically made for the achilles can give your tendon the support it needs to heal properly. Braces can also include cooling or heating properties that can alleviate pain.

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Medically designed socks, calf compression, and braces can put just the right pressure on your foot to give it the blood flow and support it needs to recover quicker and prevent future injury.

Be sure to consult a medical professional before making a purchase to ensure the right compression gear or brace that works for you.

Stretching and Strengthening

Stretch and strengthen your achilles tendon with the top three exercises recommended by physical therapists.

If the exercises are too painful, then take more time to heal before attempting to increase your activity level.

Healing Takes Time

Remember that healing takes time, and your body naturally has to repair itself. Keep your inflammation low and equip yourself with the right knowledge to rebuild your strength so you can heal faster, and recover stronger.

Whether you are experiencing the early signs of achilles tendonitis or are recovering from a rupture, be mindful of your pain levels and seek medical help if your pain worsens. The best thing you can do for yourself is to acknowledge your pain and empower yourself to heal and be the healthiest runner you can be.

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Propel yourself forward into a faster recovery for stronger and healthier running.

Bethany Widdicombe

Bethany Widdicombe

Bethany Widdicombe is a runner at heart, a researcher by nature, and a writer by passion. Having traveled across the world, she continues to be an advocate for awareness and knowledge that empowers people to a better life. You can now find her running out on the trail, or nestled away writing her next article.

Portland, OR