Achilles tendinitis is a common condition that occurs when the large tendon which runs down the back of the lower leg becomes irritated and inflamed. It often effects athletes from years of overuse (long distance runners, sprinters). The pain can occur within the tendon itself or at the point where it attaches to the heel bone, called the achilles tendon insertion. It is the largest tendon in the body connecting the calf muscles to the heel bone and is activated when you run.
Although the achilles tendon can withstand great stresses from running it is also prone to tendonitis, a condition associated with overuse and repetitive stress on the tendon. Achilles tendinitis is typically not related to a specific injury.
Types of Achilles Tendonitis
This is based upon which part of the tendon is inflamed.
Insertional Achilles tendinitis
This involves the lower portion of the heel, where the tendon attaches to the heel bone.Bone spurs (extra bone growth) often form with insertional Achilles tendinitis. Swelling that is present all the time and gets worse throughout the day with activity.
Noninsertional Achilles Tendinitis
This means that the fibers in the middle portion of the tendon have begun to break down with tiny tears causing them to swell and thicken.
In both these forms of tendinitis damaged tendon fibers may also calcify (harden).
Causes of Achilles Tendonitis
● Athletes push their bodies to do too much, too soon.
● Sudden increases in running mileage or intensity without giving the body a chance to adjust to the new distance and or intensity of exercise.
● Jumping into an aggressive running program with tight calf muscles which put extra stress on the achilles tendon.
● A bone spur (extra bone growth) that has developed where the tendon attaches to the heel bone rubbing against the tendon causing pain.
Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis
● Pain and stiffness along the achilles tendon in the morning
● Pain along the tendon or back of the heel that worsens with activity
● Severe pain the day after exercising
● Thickening of the tendon
● Bone spur
If you have experienced a sudden “pop” in the back of your calf or heel you may have ruptured (torn) your achilles tendon.
See your doctor immediately if you think that is the case.