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Achilles Tendinitis

Introduction

Achilles tendinitis is an overuse injury of the Achilles tendon, the band of tissue that connects calf muscles at the back of the lower leg to the heel bone.

Anatomy

The Achilles tendon is one of the longest tendons in the body, stretching from the bones of the heel to the calf muscle.  This tendon allows you to extend your foot and point your toes to the floor.

Causes

There are many different causes to achilles tendinitis.  Such things as overuse, increasing your level of physical activity quickly, not stretching enough before you exercise, wearing high heels, or generalized foot problems are common causes for injury.  It is also common for people who participate in sports such as running, gymnastics, dance, football, baseball, basketball and other activities to suffer from this condition.  It is known that men who are over the age of 30 are more prone to contracting this problem than other demographics of people.

Symptoms

The symptoms of an achilles tendon injury is most commonly presented as pain along the back of your foot and above your heel, usually when stretching your ankle or standing on your toes.  There will likely also be tenderness, swelling, and stiffness to the area.

Diagnosis

To diagnose an achilles tendon injury, your physician will need to perform a physical exam.  During this exam, the doctor may want to see you walk or run to look for problems that may have contributed to the injury.

Treatment

Minor to moderate achilles tendon injuries should heal on their own, but more severe injuries may require a cast or surgery.  In either situation, your doctor will likely refer you to physical therapy to help decrease your pain and allow you to slowly return to normal activities.  A physical therapist will guide you with stretching and flexibility exercises to help your tendon heal without shortening. They may provide ultrasound, heat/ice to the area, and can also determine if some form of external support like a heel lift may be right for you.

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