As the name suggests, Achilles Tendonitis is a medical condition that refers to the inflammation of Achilles tendon that manifest itself as pain along the posterior aspect or back of leg that also involves heel of the foot.
Important to Note: that we are now often referring to this condition as Achilles Tendinopathy or Achilles Tendinosis since it doesn’t usually involve inflammation.
What is Achilles Tendonitis?
Achilles tendon connects the muscles of calf (that forms the round contour of the leg) to heel bone in order to make movements like jumping, running and simple walking much easier. In younger individuals especially athletes, middle part of tendon is most commonly affected due to rupturing or tearing of small muscle fibers while running. These small muscle fiber ruptures go unchecked normally and lead to mild swelling that later dissolve by its own leading to degenerative changes in the tendon and thickening that is hallmark of Achilles tendonitis. This form of tendonitis that is seen due to muscle fiber damage is known as non-insertional Achilles tendonitis.
The other much common variety also known as insertional Achilles tendonitis may occur in individuals of all age groups and activity levels. In this type of tendonitis, normal wear and tear changes of muscle fibers and tendon are followed by calcification and bony spur formation along the lines of insertion of tendon at heel bone and may lead to severe pain and irritation.
Sign and symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis:
Common sign and symptoms of Achilles tendonitis are:
– Stiffness of heel and lower leg that is more severe in the morning hours.
– Pain along the heel (where tendon is inserted into heel bone) that increases with activity.
– Visible or palpable thickening of tendon
– Formation of a lump/ swelling due to long standing inflammatory changes in bone also called bony spur formation.
– Swelling of lower leg or heel that worsens with activity.
How does Achilles Tendonitis develop?
Invariably the largest and perhaps the strongest tendon in the body, Achilles tendon is fairly resistant to stress and traumatic injury due to it’s more posterior/ back position. However, due to excessive wear and tear changes, it may develop degenerative changes collectively called Achilles Tendonitis.
These changes are most commonly a result of over-use or abuse of tendons in executing too quick or too much physical activity that poses excessive strain on the integrity of the tendon and may lead to inflammatory changes.
Following risk factors are most commonly associated with Achilles Tendonitis:
– Performing strenuous exercise on stiff calf muscles (without any warm-up session)
– Sometimes, due to wrong choice of shoe or other physical irritant, bony spurs form that further irritate the tendon while walking or running leading to pain.
– Sudden physical stress on the tendons or limb muscles due to rapid changes in exercise or work-out regimen without giving body time to adjust.