Achilles Tendon Injuries
Injuries to the Achilles tendon most often occur as a result of physical activity or overuse. When the Achilles tendon is stretched too much or used in a way that it is not accustomed to, pain and swelling can result.
Many Achilles tendon injuries can be treated with ice and anti-inflammatory medication and rest. However, severe injuries, such as a tear or a rupture may require a doctor’s treatment. If pain and swelling in your heel or Achilles tendon are made better with rest and ice, you may be safe to resume normal activities once the pain is gone.
Pain, swelling, or loss of mobility in the heel or Achilles tendon that doesn’t resolve itself within a few days, especially with rest, should be diagnosed by a doctor. A doctor’s examination can rule out more serious injuries or recommend the best treatments for those injuries.
What is the Achilles tendon?
The Achilles tendon is a band of tissue that connects the muscle of your calf to the bone of your heel. Sometimes called the “heel cord,” this tendon plays an essential role in walking, by lifting your heel off the ground. This is also the part of your body that enables you to stand up on your tiptoes. As a person ages, the structure of their Achilles tendon can weaken, making it more common for injuries to occur.
Common Achilles Tendon Injuries
Although the Achilles is a strong tendon, repetitive stress or overstretching can lead to injury. Dr. Kleis treats the full spectrum of Achilles tendon injuries, Peritendinitis, Achilles tendinitis, strains and ruptures of the Achilles tendon.
Peritendinitis Causes and Symptom
Peritendinitis is the earliest stage of tendinitis and typically involves localized pain during or after an activity. If left untreated, Peritendinitis can progress, reaching tendinitis or even a rupture of the Achilles tendon that could require surgery to repair.
Prevention of Peritendinitis
Achilles peritendinitis is caused by continued trauma to the Achilles tendon. Runners are the most often affected demographic, though age plays a role in a person’s tendency to develop Achilles peritendinitis. In layman’s terms, Achilles peritendinitis is an overuse injury that results in pain and swelling in the Achilles tendon. This condition can be brought on by long-term overuse or a sudden increase in physical activity.
To prevent Achilles peritendinitis, a person should be careful about how quickly they increase their physical activity, especially if they have other risk factors like age or carrying extra weight. Sudden increases in activity, especially for someone who doesn’t typically engage in exercise, can put an unaccustomed strain on the Achilles tendon and pain and swelling (Achilles peritendinitis) can be the result.
Irritation and inflammation in your Achilles tendon could mean that you have tendinitis. Achilles tendinitis causes pain and may lead to a bone spur on the back of your heel bone. While this is an injury that most often occurs in athletes who have experienced a recent increase in intensity, it also presents in older people who play sports occasionally.
Causes and Symptoms of Achilles Tendinitis
Aging is a risk factor for developing Achilles Tendinitis and most often occurs in men. Other foot issues, such as flat feet or fallen arches can also put additional strain on your Achilles tendon, leading to injuries. Carrying extra weight puts more strain on your body, including your Achilles tendon and can lead to injury even when a person is not engaging in particularly intense activity.
Symptoms of Achilles Tendinitis often begin with a mild ache in the leg, above the heel. This pain most often occurs immediately after running or other strenuous exercises. After very intense exercise or occasionally after climbing stairs, the pain may be more severe.
Treatment for Achilles Tendinitis
Many times, Achilles tendinitis can be treated at home, under the care of a doctor. However, left untreated or in more serious cases, tendon tears may occur, requiring surgery. Achilles tendinitis can be diagnosed through a doctor's exam. Dr. Kleis may use X-rays to rule out other common injuries or ultrasound to visualize the soft tissues of the tendon.
Dr. Kleis may prescribe treatment that includes pain medications, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, or orthotic devices. Dr. Kleis utilizes the EPAT acoustic wave treatment and low-level laser therapy for treating Achilles tendonitis. He is one of the only doctors in Southern California to offer both treatments. These treatments are used by many professional sports teams and have been clinically proven to be some of the most effective treatments for Achille's tendinitis. After utilizing the acoustic wave and laser treatment therapies, surgery is seldom required to treat Achilles tendinitis.
Preventing Achilles Tendinitis
To prevent the development of Achilles tendinitis, it is a good idea to increase your activity level gradually. Rather than taking up running three miles a day after several years of sitting on the couch, a person would be better off beginning with walking twenty minutes a day and working their way up to a nice run. Rest after activity will allow your Achilles tendon to “cool down” and recover from activity. Stretching your muscles before and after an activity is also a good way to prevent injuries from occurring. Alternating your high-impact activities with lower impact past times is also a good way to allow your body to recover, gain strength, and prevent injury.
Choosing appropriate shoes that fit well and support your foot type is an important part of protecting your body from sports injuries like Achilles tendinitis. Dr. Kleis can help you identify your specific foot type and recommend shoe-wear specific to your needs.
It is also very important to replace worn-out shoes that no longer offer the support that your feet need. Over time, the soles of shoes break down and stop supporting the way they were designed to. How often you need to replace your shoes depends a lot on your activity level. If you are a runner, it is recommended that you replace your shoes every 500 kilometers or so. For less active people, a general rule of thumb is that shoes should be replaced every 8 to 12 months. Better quality shoes will last longer and need to be replaced less often than other shoes.
While Achilles tendinitis is generally a short-lived injury that will heal completely within a few months, you should seek the advice of a doctor if the pain is severe or persists beyond a reasonable time frame. Dr. Kleis can offer a range of treatments for Achilles tendinitis that are non-invasive and can prevent the condition from progressing to Achilles tendinosis.
While Achilles tendinitis is a sudden onset condition, Achilles tendinosis is a chronic condition that involves tendon degeneration caused by microscopic tears of the Achilles tendon. Achilles tendinosis is a thickening of the tendon that may cause pain and limit the patient’s mobility. Because the condition is chronic, rather than acute, treatments aimed at reducing pain and swelling are often not as effective with Achilles tendinosis, which requires other interventions.
The most common treatment for Achilles tendinosis involves the use of orthotic devices to correct the pressure on the Achilles tendon and physical therapy, including specific exercises and stretching. In some cases, surgery is required to repair the damage done to the tendon. Dr. Kleis also utilizes the EPAT acoustic wave treatment and low-level laser therapy for Achilles injuries. He is one of the only doctors in Southern California to offer of these both treatments. Many professional sports teams use these treatments to treat Achilles tendon injuries and they have been clinically proven to be some of the most effective treatments for Achille's tendonitis. Surgery is rarely needed when these two treatments are used.
Diagnosis for Achilles Tendinitis and Tendinosis
Only a doctor can tell the difference between Achilles tendonitis and tendinosis. Many of the symptoms of these two conditions seem the same. However, the treatments for tendinosis differ from that of tendinitis, so differentiating between the two is vital for proper treatment.
Early intervention can prevent long-term damage and get the patient back to full mobility in less time. If you are experiencing heel pain or swelling, schedule an appointment with Dr. Kleis as soon as possible.
Dr. Kleis can diagnose your Achilles tendon injuries by first performing a complete physical exam and a review of your medical history. He may take an X-ray or other imaging tests to evaluate the severity of the condition and rule out other possible injuries.
Treatment for Achilles Tendinitis and Tendinosis
Once he confirms a diagnosis of Achilles tendonitis or tendinosis, Dr. Kleis will create a personalized treatment plan. Depending on your the specifics of your case, treatment may include:
- Kleis utilizes the EPAT acoustic wave treatment and low-level laser therapy for tendonitis. He is one of the only doctors in southern California to offer both treatments. These treatments are used by many professional sports teams and have been clinically proven to be some of the most effective treatments for Achille's tendonitis. Rarely is surgery needed when these two treatments are used.
- Immobilization with a walking boot
- Custom orthotic devices
- Splints to stretch the Achilles tendon, which are worn at night
- Oral anti-inflammatory medications
- Physical therapy exercises to strengthen and stretch the Achilles tendon
If you suspect you have an Achilles tendon injury, call or book an appointment with Dr. Kleis online today.