The Most Common Cause for Achilles Tendonitis Flare-ups

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The Most Common Cause for Achilles Tendonitis Flare-ups

Tendonitis, caused by inflammation in your large Achilles tendon, is a common cause of ankle and calf pain. Knowing what’s causing your symptoms is important for relieving them and preventing them in the future. Here’s the biggest culprit.

Achilles tendon injuries, including tendonitis, are extremely common. In fact, it’s estimated that as many as a quarter of athletes develop tendon injuries at some point during their activities. 

While these injuries may be especially common in athletes who run or otherwise use their legs a lot in their sport, it’s important to note that anyone can develop Achilles tendonitis, including people who don’t participate in sports or strenuous recreational activities. That’s because the most common cause of Achilles tendonitis is one that can affect any of us: overuse.

At Alpine Foot and Ankle, Dr. Andrew McCall offers treatment for Achilles tendonitis, relieving painful symptoms, promoting recovery, and even helping prevent future problems. Here, learn how overuse can lead to Achilles tendonitis and what we can do to help.

Achilles tendon: Basic anatomy

The strongest and largest tendon in your body, the Achilles tendon connects the major muscles in your calf to your heel bone. The tendon provides stability and flexibility necessary for all sorts of movements, including walking, jumping, climbing stairs, standing, and sitting.

Like other tendons, the Achilles tendon is contained in a protective sheath of loose connective tissue called a paratenon. The paratenon supplies blood to the tendon and expands and contracts in response to tendon movement.

Achilles tendonitis happens when the Achilles tendon is inflamed. This inflammation and swelling interferes with normal tendon movement, causing additional rubbing against the paratenon, which in turn increases irritation and inflammation.

Achilles tendonitis causes pain along the length of the tendon, with symptoms worsening with activity involving the foot or leg. In addition, you may also have tenderness when you press on the skin above the tendon or around your heel.

Overuse: A primary cause of Achilles tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis is frequently associated with overuse or repetitive use that results in tendon overload and straining. Irritation and inflammation lead to microtrauma in the tendon tissue, weakening the tendon and increasing the risk of future problems.

Strenuous exercise is one potential cause, especially when activity is ramped up too rapidly or you don’t warm up before activity. Some activities, like running or repetitive jumping, increase impact and strain on the tendon, too.

In addition to overuse or repetitive use, other potential causes of Achilles tendonitis include:

  • Flat feet
  • Gait abnormalities
  • Poor form when exercising
  • Differences in leg length
  • Bone spurs

When treatment is delayed, tendonitis can lead to stiffness and a thickening of the tendon over time. 

Relief for Achilles tendon problems

Because it’s an injury that can quickly worsen, Achilles pain and stiffness should be medically evaluated as soon as possible, regardless of the severity of your symptoms. Dr. McCall may order X-rays or other testing to confirm Achilles tendonitis and rule out other potential injuries, like stress fractures.

For very mild tendonitis, rest, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, and heat and ice therapies may be all it takes to relieve discomfort and help your tendon heal. Physical therapy can also be helpful, along with orthotics to improve foot support and reduce strain on the heel and tendon. 

Dr. McCall often recommends exercises and stretching or changes in your workout routine. Adding in cross-training can help by reducing strain on the tendon and strengthening the calf muscles, too.

Manage your tendon pain

Like most injuries, Achilles tendonitis can become much worse without prompt treatment. In some cases, weakening in the tendon can lead to serious complications, like tendon rupture or permanent disability.

If you have tendon pain, stiffness, or swelling in your Achilles tendon, don’t ignore it. Request an appointment online or over the phone with Dr. McCall and our team at Alpine Foot and Ankle in Idaho Falls, Idaho, today.