More Than Sore Feet
Aches and pains are expected after a long day standing at work or a tough match on the field. But, for those constantly reaching for the back of the heel in pain, there could be something more involved. The issue is not sore feet but Achilles Tendinitis. Tendinitis means inflammation, so Achilles tendinitis means pain and swelling of the tendon.
Symptoms of Achilles tendinitis
The Achilles tendon is the most prominent tendon connecting the calf muscle to the heel bone. The Achilles tendon is at work in everything, like moving from sitting to standing to outrunning an opponent on the field. Tendinitis is a common injury that can develop at the center or the sides of the tendon. The result is pain, swelling, stiffness, and a thickening of the tendon. The condition won't happen to everyone, but there are 3 risk factors to consider.
1. Age and overuse
The body is nature's machine, and like any machine, there is the chance of wear and tear. With age, the tendon is likely to weaken. Sudden force on the tendon or extended time moving can cause tendinitis. Over time, seniors can even develop bone spurs near the heel. That does not rule out younger people developing tendinitis. Athletes and workers who move around for long periods are also at risk of Achilles tendinitis.
2. Beware chronic diseases
About 1 in 2 Americans suffer from at least one chronic condition. Some of these conditions can increase the risk of ligament injuries. Obesity, for instance, increases the risk of tendon inflammation. The added weight can place strain on the tendon, especially with repeated movement. In addition, studies show that metabolic syndrome, a cluster of chronic conditions, can degrade the tendon.
3. Poor warm-up and stretching practices
The Achilles tendon takes on a considerable load when running and jumping. The force exerted by upward and downward motion is several times that of one's body weight. For the tendon to work correctly, pre-activation is essential. Without the proper warm-up, a sudden addition of weight or intense exercise can cause inflammation. If heavy use is repeated over time, an athlete is more likely to form Achilles tendinitis.
Is it time for surgery?
Tendinitis sounds like the condition does not require surgery. For most patients, this is the case. Once a doctor confirms tendinitis, there are some non-surgical options. Physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medication can help. The RICE method, consisting of rest, ice, compression, and elevation, is also effective. While managing the injury, lifestyle changes, including weight management, can help with long-term relief. However, if these methods fail, surgery can help.
Surgery, recovery, and next steps
Doctors reserve Achilles tendinitis surgery for severe cases that do not respond to treatment. The surgery aims to remove any damaged or diseased parts of the tendon. First, under general or local anesthesia, an orthopedic surgeon will make small incisions over the tendon. Next, small tools will remove damaged or diseased parts of the tendon. If necessary, the doctor will move the tendon to shave off bone spurs. Once the cleanup is complete, the doctor closes the wound. Recovery can take several months with physical therapy, depending on the patient's health.
Know your risk factors
Over time, the pain and inflammation caused by tendinitis can be distressing. If left untreated, tendinitis can lead to a ruptured tendon. Ruptured tendons are more painful, need extensive surgery and recovery. Knowing the risks and identifying the symptoms is critical for future health. Anyone concerned about the pain coming from the area should speak with a doctor or physical therapist.
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