Normally, our calves and feet allow us to effortlessly power through our day. They grant us the ability to accomplish a myriad of activities and tasks. However, when a person experiences a calf injury such as Achilles tendonitis, it quickly becomes very challenging, if not impossible, to maintain one’s normal level of ability.
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the common causes of Achilles tendonitis. Even more importantly, we’ll also outline some of the things a person can do to heal from this debilitating condition, as well as how to find the right supportive footwear in order to prevent reinjury.
What is Achilles Tendonitis?
The Achilles tendon is a tough band of tissue that connects the bottom of the calf muscle to the heel bone. So, what is Achilles tendonitis? Achilles tendonitis occurs when, under certain conditions, this fibrous tissue becomes inflamed — in severe cases, it can even rupture or tear.
Initially, a person may experience occasional calf tightness, foot pain, and heel pain, especially when running or climbing stairs. Over time, without rest or treatment, a person’s symptoms become more pronounced and will appear more regularly. In severe cases, a person may actually rupture their Achilles tendon.
Causes of Achilles Tendonitis
Achilles tendonitis is typically defined as an overuse injury. In other words, it primarily occurs after a person dramatically increases physical activities that involve the use of their legs. However, even well-conditioned tennis and basketball enthusiasts can become susceptible to Achilles tendonitis. Those sports often require movements that involve running, jumping, and pushing up on one’s toes.
While athletes often experience overuse injuries, even sedentary people can have a case of Achilles tendonitis. This is especially true if they suddenly begin an exercise program and even more so if they don’t wear proper footwear as they begin to increase their level of movement.
People with illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes are also particularly susceptible to issues with their Achilles tendons. Diabetes can cause tendons within the body to thicken and tear more easily. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause abnormalities in tendons as well.
Wearing improper shoes can also cause or exacerbate issues with Achilles tendonitis. Wearing high heels on a persistent basis causes the Achilles tendon to shorten. This leaves the tendon vulnerable to overstretching and tears.
Achilles Tendonitis Treatment
For the average healthy person, an inflamed Achilles tendon may only require NSAIDs and the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) method of treatment for several days, followed by 6-8 weeks of rest and cessation of the activity that caused the inflammation.
More chronic cases that may occur in those with RA or diabetes, or as one’s age advances, may require more aggressive treatment. Surgery presents the ideal option in cases of a severely torn Achilles tendon. However, physical therapy can be useful in treating some torn Achilles tendons. It can also help in treating stubborn cases of tendonitis that refuse to heal.
Physical therapy for foot pain caused by Achilles tendonitis typically involves initially focusing on reducing a patient’s pain levels. This may be accomplished by techniques such as ice massage and cross friction massage. The latter is a technique used to increase circulation in the injured area in order to promote healing. Cross friction massage also decreases the likelihood of the formation of adhesions and scar tissue, which increases the likelihood of complete healing.
A physical therapist will also introduce stretching exercises designed to increase a person’s range of motion throughout the foot, heel, and calf area. Eventually, a PT will introduce exercises such as heel lifts and other exercises to strengthen muscles in the calves, heels, and feet.
Best Shoes for Foot Pain Caused by Achilles Tendonitis
As part of the recovery process, a physical therapist may recommend their patient wear a boot specially-designed to provide the proper cushioning and support for the Achilles tendon. This can help the patient find relief from pain while also improving mobility and practicing ankle stability.
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If you need help to recover from Achilles tendonitis or from a torn Achilles tendon, please call Cawley Physical Therapy & Rehab at 570-208-2787 or email us at: email@example.com.