The Achilles tendon is a tough fibrous band that connects your calf muscles to your heel bones. Inflammation of this tendon is what healthcare professionals refer to as Achilles tendonitis. This medical problem is typical in runners who have suddenly decided to intensify their training.
Achilles tendonitis usually begins as a mild ache at the back of the leg after sports. More severe pain may occur after intense sporting activities and may be accompanied by stiffness, especially in the morning. This condition responds well to self-care approaches such as rest, icing, elevation, compression, and use of Achilles tendonitis straps.
Your doctor will ask a few questions before proceeding to do a physical exam. The physician may palpate the affected area or ask you to stand on your toes to assess flexibility and range of motions. Tests –X-ray, MRI, and Ultrasound scans – may be ordered.
However, if the symptoms are severe and persistent, it is time to visit your doctor, who will recommend any of the following treatment modalities;-
After a thorough examination, your healthcare provider may suggest;-
- Reduction of physical activities
- Stretching exercises
- Taking a less strenuous sport
- Use of a brace or walking boot
Your doctor may refer you for physiotherapy, where the physical therapist may recommend either exercises or the use of orthotic devices.
Specific exercises help strengthen the Achilles tendon while promoting its healing. Eccentric strengthening is a strengthening exercise that has proven particularly useful in Achilles tendonitis.
Furthermore, shoe wedges or inserts help relieve pressure and strain on your tendon, thus promoting healing.
NSAIDs and acetaminophen are very effective in helping minimize Achilles tendonitis pain. Though not a permanent solution, the pain level becomes bearable, and you can resume your daily activities comfortably.
Over the counter medications are sometimes not effective in Achilles tendonitis, necessitating the doctor to recommend stronger medications. Steroids are injected directly into the tendon to help reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
The injections have to be done by a trained healthcare provider and at regular intervals. Steroids are quite effective though they may weaken adjacent muscles with time.
Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Injections
PRP is produced by isolating and concentrating plasma from the blood. It is then injected into the Achilles tendon to stimulate the growth of new and healthy cells, hence enhancing healing. Given that PRP is rich in tissue growth factors, researchers believe it helps injured organs heal faster.
In instances where medical and non-medical approaches prove ineffective, surgery may be recommended. That is because, if left untreated, Achilles tendonitis risks rupture, a medical emergency whose only treatment is surgery.
Your doctor will refer you to an orthopedic surgeon who will decide the best surgical approach. During an open repair, the surgeon makes an incision above the heel bone and sows the two ends of the ruptured tendon back together. Another method involves making an incision where the rupture has occurred and making sutures through the tendon and skin. The sutures are then tied together.
Achilles tendonitis usually disappears with continual rest and proper home treatment. However, recovery may take longer if you continue overworking the Achilles tendon by maintaining your regular physical activities.