What Is Achilles Tendinitis? What Are the Symptoms?
Achilles tendinitis is an overuse injury to the Achilles tendon, usually focused along the back of the leg just above where the tendon connects to the heel. Repetitive strain on the tendon can lead to inflammation of the tendon tissue, or even degeneration and breakdown of the tendon fibers.
Symptoms vary depending on the location and severity of the tendinitis, but may include some or all the following:
- Pain and stiffness located around the back of the heel, especially after (but not necessary during) exercise.
- Tenderness in the tendon, especially in the morning.
- Noticeable swelling, or even a small “lump” on the tendon.
- Tight calf muscles
If you feel sudden, severe pain in the tendon—with or without an accompanying “popping” sound at the moment of injury—you may have suffered a complete rupture of the tendon, which is a serious injury that needs immediate treatment. Improper treatment of tendinitis can also lead to a rupture as well.
What Causes Achilles Tendinitis? Am I at Risk?
Achilles tendinitis, as we said before, is an overuse injury. Almost anyone can develop it, from youth athletes to senior citizens. All you really need is for your tendons to have to deal with too much force and pressure, beyond what they can bear, over a period of time.
However, there are certainly some activities, demographics, and other factors that would increase your risk. A few examples:
- Athletes in general, and runners in particular, are more at risk due to the enormous physical strain placed on the Achilles tendons. This can be complicated by poor decisions in training, such as not taking enough rest days or increasing the intensity of your workouts too rapidly.
- Wearing worn out shoes, or shoes that don’t provide much cushioning or support in any circumstance, increases the strain on your tendons.
- If you have a biomechanical abnormality, such as flat feet or tight calf muscles, your tendons may have to deal with greater strain.
- Middle-aged adults are often the “sweet spot” demographically for tendinitis. Tendons naturally weaken and become less flexible with age. Combine that with heavy exercise or a “weekend warrior” mentality, and it’s not surprising that injuries occur.
- Certain medical conditions or medications can weaken the tendons and make them more susceptible to injury. Common examples include high blood pressure, psoriasis, and taking certain medications and antibiotics (including Cipro and Levaquin).