An Achilles tendon injury can be caused due to multiple reasons, and is seen to commonly affect men between the ages 30 to 50. An otherwise healthy person could also be afflicted with this condition. Let us understand the cause and treatment methods of the same in the following sections.
Achilles tendon connects the heel to the gastrocnemius (calf), plantaris, and soleus muscles of the body. An Achilles tendon injury is common in runners, and accounts for 11% of all running injuries. The pain brought on due to this is normally experienced at the back of the ankle.
The main cause of this injury is degenerated tissue with a loss of normal fiber structure. The recovery time for this condition is very slow due to the poor supply of blood to the area. The other, more severe form of injury is a rupture that comes about when there is a complete tear of the tendon located approximately 2 inches above the heels.
The most common symptom of this injury is the onset of gradual pain over a period of days. Some people may also experience pain at the start of the exercise schedule, which may fade as the routine progresses. Tenderness in the area, along with palpitation is also experienced by some people.
In chronic cases, the pain may be persistent, and may worsen, while walking up a hill or a staircase. People may also experience pain and stiffness early in the morning or after considerable amount of rest. In certain chronic cases, lumps in the area may also be formed. Swelling or thickening around the tendon area is also observed.
The causes of this condition include an overuse of muscles, misalignment, improper footwear, and accidents. Many times a combination of several factors may lead to this condition as opposed to a single cause. For example–a sudden increase in the ascent while climbing while wearing worn out shoes and weak or tight calf muscles could all lead to this condition. Running or walking for longer periods than one is used to, or running or walking very fast can also give rise to this injury.
Most of us do not pay attention to the arch support, cushioning, motion control, and heel support of the footwear we choose. Neglecting these increases the risk of developing Achilles tendon injuries. Sudden increase in activity, less recovery time between activities, weak calf muscles, and over-pronation are some of the other causes of this condition.
Rest is said to be the best treatment for this injury. It is important to keep the leg at an elevation for as long as possible–this will help in keeping the swelling at a minimal level. If the pain is moderate to severe, using crutches or support to walk at least for the first 72 hours after the injury is recommended. Cold therapy consisting of ice compress also helps in alleviating the condition. Heat can be applied to the area after the first 24 hours, after the swelling in the area has subsided.
Using an elasticized bandage also helps in the healing process. In case of severe pain, you may want to take a pain killer. Wearing a heel pad is also said to be beneficial in treating the condition, as it takes off some strain from the region. If you are into running, make sure that you have the correct shoes meant for running as well as for your foot type.
It is recommended that you visit a health care professional who will provide you with the corrective measures that are to be undertaken. Normally, certain specific exercises and stretches may be prescribed to strengthen the tendon, along with certain medication that focus on the pain. In the severe case of Achilles tendonitis, it may be necessary to keep the leg in a cast for better healing. It is important that one does not neglect the injury to avoid unnecessary complications later.