Understanding Achilles Tendonitis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Achilles tendonitis is a common injury that can cause pain and discomfort in the back of the ankle. It occurs when your Achilles tendon, which connects your calf muscles to your heel bone, becomes inflamed or irritated. Learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatment options available at Ravenswood Chiropractic in Chicago to help you recover.
What is Achilles Tendonitis?
Achilles tendonitis is a condition that occurs when your Achilles tendon, which connects your calf muscles to your heel bone, becomes inflamed or irritated. This can cause pain in the back of your ankle, especially when walking or running. It is a common injury among athletes and runners but can also occur in less active individuals.
Most people and even some physicians refer to this condition as Achilles Tendonitis or, interchangeably, with Achilles tendinopathy. There is a difference, and when it comes to selecting the best treatment, it is an important one. Achilles tendinopathy refers to the structural changes inside the injured tendon. While the term tendonitis (commonly used) implies inflammation is the primary cause. Recent research has shown that inflammation is not always a factor in ongoing Achilles tendon pain. Therefore, tendinopathy is the preferred term as it encompasses a broader range of changes that may be occurring in your tendon.
Causes of Achilles Tendonitis
Various factors can contribute to the development of Achilles Tendonitis.
- A sudden increase in physical activity
- Improper footwear
- Tight calf muscles
For example, athletes who participate in sports that involve jumping or running are at a higher risk for developing Achilles tendonitis. In addition, individuals with flat feet or high arches may also be more prone to this condition. Therefore, identifying the underlying cause of your Achilles tendonitis is essential to treat and prevent future injury effectively.
Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis
The most common symptom of Achilles tendonitis is pain and stiffness in the back of the heel, particularly after physical activity. However, the pain may also be present during activity and can worsen over time if left untreated. Swelling and tenderness may also be present in the affected area. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, see a chiropractor or other qualified healthcare provider in your area to properly diagnose and treat your condition.
Treatment Options for Achilles Tendonitis
Treatment for Achilles tendonitis typically involves a combination of rest, physical therapy and custom orthotics. When conservative methods fail to reduce symptoms, Radial Shockwave Therapy and Class IV Laser should be considered to accelerate the healing time.
Resting the affected area and avoiding activities exacerbating the condition is crucial for healing the tendon.
Physical therapy is an essential component of treating Achilles tendonitis. Although the tendon is the patient’s main complaint due to pain, the regional musculoskeletal system needs to be evaluated to determine why the stress has ended up in the tendon, causing damage over a long time.
For effective treatment, we must normalize the range of motion by targeting the joint restrictions in the areas above and below the Achilles tendon and applying appropriate stretches to any shortened muscles. Subsequent physical therapy can help strengthen the affected area’s muscles and tendons. This may include warming up properly before exercise, stretching the affected area, and performing resistance exercises to strengthen the tendon and surrounding muscles. Lastly, normalize balance and coordination. Most patients with Achilles tendonitis can recover and return to normal activities with conservative care and treatment.
Radial Shockwave Therapy
Radial Shockwave Therapy is an advanced, non-invasive treatment option for Achilles tendonitis that uses sound waves to stimulate healing in the affected area. This therapy can help reduce pain by stimulating the release of pain mediators and reduce inflammation by mast cell degranulation which promotes a localized healing response. In addition, Radial Shockwave Therapy encourages collagen synthesis and new blood vessel formation, aiding tissue reorganization and regeneration. We typically use Radial Shockwave Therapy with other treatments, such as Class IV Laser and Physical Therapy. Results vary. However, many patients notice symptom improvement within 3-5 treatments and resolution in 6-12. Treatments last from 5-10 minutes and are scheduled a week apart. To see if Radial Shockwave Therapy can help your Achilles Tendonitis pain, schedule an appointment with one of our chiropractic physicians online or by calling or texting us at 773.878.7330.
Class IV Laser
Class IV Laser Therapy is also a non-invasive treatment option for Achilles Tendonitis. Injuries to your Achilles tendon can be painful and slow to heal due to reduced blood flow to the area. Class IV Laser Therapy uses a high-powered laser to stimulate blood flow and promote healing, providing a safe and effective alternative to traditional treatment methods.
Class IV Laser treatment works by using high-powered lasers to penetrate deep into the affected tissue. The laser energy stimulates the body’s natural healing processes, increasing blood flow to the area and promoting the growth of new, healthy tissue. This can help to reduce pain and inflammation, improve the range of motion, and speed up the healing process. Class IV laser therapy is non-invasive and requires no medication or surgery, making it a safe and effective option for many patients. Class IV laser treatments may be recommended up to 2 times a week in conjunction with Radial Shockwave Therapy once weekly for optimal results. This is an ideal treatment option for athletes and active individuals who want to return to normal activities as quickly as possible.
Custom Foot Orthotics
Achilles tendonitis is common when your Achilles tendon, which connects your calf muscles to your heel bone, becomes inflamed. Treatment often involves taking pressure off the tendon as it heals, which can be achieved through Custom Foot Orthotics. If you have flat or hyper-pronated feet, our chiropractic physicians may recommend the long-term use of Custom Foot Orthotics to help prevent future injuries.
When treating Achilles tendonitis, it’s important to be cautious about using injectable agents like corticosteroids. While some studies suggest they may be effective, there is also a risk of tendon rupture when injected directly into the tendon. In our office, we find conservative care, in addition to Radial Shockwave Therapy, highly effective, and steroid injections are unnecessary. However, it is essential to seek medical attention from a qualified healthcare provider if you suspect you may be experiencing Achilles Tendonitis to prevent further damage to the tendon, such as a rupture or tear, which would require surgical intervention.
Surgery for Achilles Tendonitis
While surgery is rarely necessary, it may take several months of nonsurgical treatment to alleviate symptoms fully. Even with prompt treatment, the pain can persist for over three months. Therefore, resting the affected area and following a treatment plan prescribed by a healthcare professional to prevent further damage and promote healing is essential. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair a damaged tendon. In my 20 years of practice, I have never had a case in active treatment progress to a rupture. Working with a healthcare professional to determine the best treatment for your needs is essential.
Diagnosis of Achilles Tendinopathy
If you suspect you are suffering from Achilles Tendonitis, it is essential to seek medical attention from your chiropractor or another qualified healthcare provider. The diagnosis may involve various methods such as physical examination, imaging tests, and medical history review. It is vital to receive proper diagnosis and treatment to prevent further damage and promote healing.
When diagnosing Achilles tendonitis, our chiropractic physicians will take into account your medical history, as well as your exercise habits and footwear choices. This is because certain activities and types of shoes can strain the Achilles tendon, leading to inflammation and pain. By understanding these factors, our chiropractic physicians can better tailor treatment plans to help alleviate symptoms and prevent future injury.
Achilles tendonitis is a condition that can be diagnosed through various tests, including an x-ray of the foot, ultrasound, and sometimes blood tests to check for inflammation. In more severe cases, an MRI scan of the tendon may also be necessary to determine the extent of the injury. It is essential to seek medical attention if you suspect you may have Achilles tendonitis, as early diagnosis and treatment can prevent further damage and promote healing.
There are two types of Achilles Tendonitis.
Noninsertional Achilles Tendinitis
Noninsertional Achilles tendonitis affects the middle of the tendon, just above where it attaches to the heel. This can cause the fibers to break down and develop small tears, leading to swelling and thickening of the tendon over time. This can cause pain and stiffness in the affected area, making it difficult to engage in physical activity.
Insertional Achilles Tendinitis
Insertional Achilles tendonitis affects the lower portion of your tendon, just as it attaches to the heel bone. This condition can cause pain and discomfort in the affected area, also making walking or engaging in physical activity challenging.
In both cases, the tendon fibers can become damaged and may even calcify over time, resulting in a hardening of the tissue. In addition, with insertional Achilles tendonitis, bone spurs can also develop on the heel, causing additional discomfort and pain.
Insertional Achilles tendonitis is often seen in runners and is usually caused by tightness in the calf muscles. This tightness stresses the Achilles tendon insertion, leading to pain and inflammation.
Get Advanced Treatment for Achilles Tendonitis at Ravenswood Chiropractic in Chicago.
Treatment aims to alleviate strain on the tendon, prevent additional injury, and promote healing. This may involve rest, physical therapy, stretching and strengthening exercises, and in some cases, Radial Shockwave Therapy and Class IV Laser. You should seek medical attention if you suspect you have Achilles tendonitis, as untreated patients can lead to chronic pain and even tendon rupture.
Achilles tendonitis is a condition that requires patience and diligence in recovery. If you live in Chicago and want to see if we can help with your Achilles tendonitis, you can schedule a free consultation or examination with one of our chiropractic physicians.