What is Achilles Tendinitis?
Tendinitis is the inflammation of a tendon. Tendons are thick cords of tissue that connect muscles to bone. The Achilles tendon is the longest and strongest tendon in the body. Achilles tendinitis, or an inflammation of the Achilles tendon, is one of the most common causes of foot or ankle pain. Other types of foot/ankle tendinitis include posterior tibial tendinitis and peroneal tendinitis.
Tendinitis can result from an injury or over-use. Improper stretching prior to exertion or incorrect form during physical activity can also contribute to the development of tendinitis. Some people, including those with “flat feet,” tight tendons or arthritis, are particularly prone to tendinitis.
Pain is the most prominent symptom of tendinitis. The pain will be most noticeable when you try to move that part of your body. Commonly, pain in the back of the leg after sitting or lying down for a period of time and then standing is indicative of Achilles tendinitis. Additionally, the inability to put the heel flat on the ground after a period of being off the foot is a common symptom.
Rest and ice can ease the pain of tendinitis. Stay off your foot or ankle as much as possible and apply ice for up to 15 minutes at a time, three to four times a day. Stretching of the tendon is not recommended until all symptoms have resolved or indicated by your physician.
5 Home Remedies for Achilles Tendinitis
Cold Compresses: A cold compress helps reduce pain and swelling, two main symptoms of Achilles tendinitis. It will also help relax the affected muscles.
Warm Wraps or Elastic Bandages: You can use warm wraps or compressive, elastic bandages to reduce the amount of stress placed on the affected muscles. This in turn decreases swelling and pain as well as speeds up the healing process.
- Massage: This is another good way to treat Achilles tendinitis. A gentle massage will help increase circulation, relax the muscles, and reduce swelling and stiffness. For massaging, you can use olive, coconut, sesame or mustard oil.
- Castor Oil: You can also try castor oil to ease the symptoms of Achilles tendinitis. The oil is mainly comprised of ricinoleic acid, an anti-inflammatory agent. Topically apply castor oil to the site of the pain 2 or 3 times a day. This helps relieve pain and minimize inflammation of the tendon.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that helps relieve inflammation and pain by getting rid of free radicals that may be contributing to it. Vitamin E also improves circulatory function, which reduces swelling and promotes healing.
When to Visit a Podiatrist
If the pain doesn't go away with ice and rest, worsens, or if the pain persists beyond a week, it's time to see a podiatrist. Don't wait! Tendinitis can become a chronic problem, and it's a lot harder to treat chronic problems than acute injuries and may require far more inconvenient treatments.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your podiatrist will ask you some questions about your pain and general health and perform a complete physical examination of your feet and ankles. X-rays or an MRI might be ordered to rule out any other problems, such as a fracture or torn tendon.
Treatment will focus on relieving the pain and preventing further injury. Your podiatrist may create shoe inserts or recommend immobilizing the affected area for a period of time. (Often, a couple of weeks are needed for the tendon to heal.) Medication can help too – Steroids or NSAID’s. Your podiatrist may recommend or prescribe oral medication.
Your podiatrist will work with you to decrease your chances of re-developing tendinitis. Custom orthotics can to help control the motion of your feet and reduce abnormal pressures or strains. He or she may also recommend certain stretches or exercises to increase the tendon's elasticity and strengthen the muscles attached to the tendon. Gradually increasing your activity level will help reduce chance of re-injury.
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