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Achilles tendinitis is a syndrome of irritation of the Achilles tendon in the ankle. The Achilles tendon is the large tendon in the back of the ankle that inserts into the heel bone. When individuals overuse their Achilles tendon it becomes irritated and inflamed. This inflammation can cause pain and swelling. Furthermore, this can lead to small tears within the tendon and make the Achilles tendon susceptible to rupture.
What are the causes of Achilles Tendinitis?
Achilles tendinitis is most often caused by repetitive, minor impact on the affected area, or from a sudden more serious injury. Incorrect posture at work or home or poor stretching or conditioning before exercise or playing sports also increases the risk.
What are the Symptoms for Achilles Tendinitis?
Achilles Tendinitis does not happen overnight, and usually does not manifest itself right away. Pain is usually mild at first, but it worsens with continued activity.
The first stage of the achilles tendon injury, called Peritenonitis, has no visible symptoms. The patient may feel pain during activity or while at rest, but will not see any physical manifestation of damage.
As achilles tendon injury progresses to the second stage (called Tendinosis), the patient may begin to notice some swelling or hard knots of tissue on the back of the leg.
If the feet are subjected to more physical activity and strain, the tendon may partially or completely rupture. This is the third stage (referred to as Peritenonitis with Tendinosis). The result is traumatic damage to the tendons – a condition that can impair the legs from walking and require extended recovery period.
How to diagnose Achilles Tendinitis?
After studying a patient’s history and routine physical examination (including palpating the lower lags for atrophy and measurement of passive ranges of motion of the feet, ankles and knees), one or a both of the following tests is usually conducted:
- Thompson Test: This test detects the rupture of the achilles tendon. The patient is required to lay face downward and bend his knees as the doctor presses on the back side of the calves. The foot flexes if the achilles tendon is at least partly undamaged.
- Imaging Test: Some patients may be required to undergo X-Ray, MRI Scans, and Ultrasound (or a combination). The x-ray helps detect swelling and fractures, the MRI detects any partial rupture or degenerative manifestations in the tendons, and ultrasound detects the Achilles tendon’s thickness.
How to prevent Achilles Tendinitis?
To prevent Achilles tendinitis, take the activity slow at first and gradually build up the activity level. Use limited force and limited repetitions and stop if unusual pain occurs.
What are the treatments of Achilles Tendonitis?
Initial treatment of Achilles tendinitis includes avoiding activities that aggravate the problem, resting the injured area, icing the area the day of the injury and taking anti-inflammatory medicines. If the condition does not improve more advanced treatments is needed. These include anti-inflammatory injection and shockwave therapy to stimulate the healing process of the tendon.