Could Achilles Tendinitis Be Causing My Heel Pain?

The Achilles tendon is a vital part of the lower leg that connects your calf muscles to your heel bone. Most of us take the tendon for granted and happily walk around without giving it a second thought. Sometimes, however, this trusty tendon can become strained, stiff, and painful. If your Achilles tendon is interrupting your daily activities, Achilles tendinitis represents a likely diagnosis. In this article, we’ve put together some handy information to help you understand this common condition and address your pain quickly.

Achilles Tendinitis: Could It Be the Source of My Heel Pain?

Achilles tendinitis is primarily caused by overuse. If your tendon feels swollen and tender after an intense tennis match or a long hike in the wilderness, you’re likely suffering from Achilles tendinitis. In fact, some podiatrists refer to the condition as ‘The Curse of Weekend Warriors’. Why? Well, many people who struggle with Achilles tendinitis are very active on the weekend, while spending most of their time sitting in office chairs during the week. When the tendon isn’t kept strong through regular physical exercise, weekend workouts can lead to repetitive trauma and overuse. 

Other telltale clues that suggest you’re suffering from Achilles tendinitis include:

  • You’ve suddenly increased the intensity of your workouts
  • You’ve just started exercising after years of inactivity
  • You’re exercising in the wrong type of shoes 
  • You’re exercising in worn-out shoes 

While Achilles tendinitis is common in very active individuals, it can affect anyone. As such, it’s important to be aware of the signs, symptoms, and available treatment options. 

What is Achilles Tendinitis?

 Achilles tendinitis is one of many common causes of heel pain. It occurs when overuse of the heel and lower leg cause inflammation of connective tissue in the Achilles tendon. Although Achilles tendinitis can be very painful and frustrating – particularly if you’re training for a big race or an exciting football game – it is not a serious issue in and of itself. However, it can weaken the Achilles tendon and leave it vulnerable to tearing. If you think tendinitis is painful, a tear is several times worse and typically requires surgical repair. With this in mind, it’s important to treat Achilles tendinitis quickly and avoid making the problem worse – no matter how tempting the gym might seem!

man stopping his run ona. dirt path holding his achilles tendon and heel in pain

What Are the Symptoms?

Usually, Achilles tendinitis starts as a mild aching feeling just above the heel. It may get progressively worse if you continue to engage in intense activities such as climbing many stairs or running long distances. Other common symptoms include: 

  • Stiffness and pain that feels worse in the morning
  • Severe pain a day or two after exercising
  • Noticeable thickening of the tendon
  • Swelling 
  • The formation of bone spurs
  • Heel pain that feels worse when you wear shoes 

If the pain is very severe or you feel an uncomfortable ‘pop’ in your heel, you may have torn your tendon. 

What Are the Risk Factors of Achilles Tendinitis?

 As we’ve already mentioned, primary risk factors involve the type and intensity of your workouts. Following an overly ambitious training plan can put you at significant risk of developing Achilles tendinitis, as well a range of other repetitive strain injuries. Tendon pain is also more likely to develop if you’re exercising in cold weather or on uneven terrain. Finally, running in inadequately supportive training shoes can boost your risk of Achilles tendinitis, so don’t forget to treat yourself to a brand new pair of sneakers every so often. 

Who is Most at Risk of Developing Achilles Tendinitis?

Although Achilles tendinitis can happen to anyone, some factors may increase your risk of developing the condition, including:

  • Age: Your risk of developing Achilles tendinitis increases as you age.
  • Your sex: Achilles tendinitis is more common in men than women.
  • Your medical history: People with psoriasis or high blood pressure are more likely to develop Achilles tendinitis. Some antibiotic medications known as fluoroquinolones can also increase your risk. 

What Are the Treatment Options?

 Fortunately, tendinitis is relatively straightforward to treat, particularly in its early stages. Key treatments include:

  • Rest: Resting the tendon represents one of the best ways to enjoy a speedy recovery.
  • Physical therapy: A medical professional will typically prescribe a range of strengthening and stretching exercises to promote healing.
  • Medications: Both over-the-counter and prescription pain medications can help to reduce inflammation and relieve discomfort.
  • Custom Orthotics: Shoe inserts can help cushion the heel and promote healing.
  • Surgery: If the above treatments don’t work, surgery may help to restore your Achilles tendon to its former glory.

When Should You See a Doctor?

 If your tendon pain lasts more than a few days, it’s a good idea to visit a podiatrist for a firm diagnosis and treatment plan. If your pain is severe, seek immediate medical attention, as you may have torn your tendon. 

Contact Richardson Podiatry Center Today!

 At Richardson Podiatry Center, we know how life-limiting and painful Achilles tendinitis can feel. Fortunately, we’ve got a range of solutions up our sleeves to help you recover and get back to your old, sprightly self. If your heel pain is causing problems, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with our friendly team today! Call us at (972) 690-5374 or fill out our simple contact form.