Have you been experiencing pain in your Achilles tendon? Did you receive a diagnosis of "tendinitis" that makes you wonder if your doctor knows how to spell? If so, this article is for you! Because, here, we break down the meaning and causes of tendinitis.
Remember: a tendon is something that connects muscles to bones. Your Achilles tendon is probably the most famous. But there are other tendons in your foot. And they can also get inflamed. We often see inflammation in your posterior tibial tendon. (That's on the inside of your ankle.) Or the peroneal tendon, on the outside of your ankle. Finally, the top of your foot is another spot where we often see inflammation or tendinitis.
But let's get back to that famous Achilles tendon. It connects your calf muscles to your heel bones. Which means it gets a lot of use.
And that fact can help us understand why it’s one of the most common spots for tendon inflammation. Which is the subject of today's article. Since tendinitis is just the term we use to describe an inflamed tendon.
What is Tendinitis and Why Does it Happen?
Tendinitis is a condition in which a tendon has become irritated or inflamed. Tendons are thick cords in your body that connect bones to muscles. It can affect any tendon in your body. But the Achilles tendon is a common spot for this painful condition.
The problems begin when you subject your tendon to small, repetitive impacts. These could be small, like the built up force of running. But, over time, those forces buil up. Especially when you don't give your Achilles tendon proper rest periods. Or stretches to relieve the pressure.
That's why we call Achilles tendinitis an overuse injury. It's caused by excessive pulling of the tendon. This can occur because of starting a new exercise or training program. Or when you don't having enough rest or recovery time.
Yes, physical activity is often the reason for this inflammation. But other factors can increase your risk for tendinitis. These include:
- Physical abnormalities, like different leg lengths, that place more stress on your tendons.
- Over-pronation (flat feet) that causes pulling on the tendon. You might also hear this cause called faulty alignment. Or a foot malfunction.
- Other outside stressors, like arthritis or gout.
- Repetitive wearing of high heels. (Because, over time, this can shorten your Achilles tendon and cause stress.)
At the end of the day, whatever the cause of your tendinitis, there is one common factor: this condition hurts! And can cause many complications.
How Your Achilles Tendon Impacts Heel Pain
Before we explore the symptoms of tendinitis, I have to take a minute to talk about plantar fasciitis. Because this cause of heel pain often goes hand in hand with tendinitis. Why is that the case?
Remember, your heel is part of a complex network of tendons (like the Achilles). It's also made of joints, bones, nerves and veins. Plus, your plantar fascia (a band of connective tissue) runs from your heel along the base of your foot. And, like your Achilles tendon, when it gets tight, stretched or inflamed, you'll experience pain. Often in your heel or arches.
Now, on their own, your heel and arch are built to absorb the shock of your walks and runs. But, like every other part of your body, your heel doesn't function on it's own. Which means that problems in other areas of your body often trickle down to your heels.
In fact, when patients come in complaining of heel pain, I often discover other problems. Often, as I take your medical history, I discover that you recently had tight calf muscles. And it's not surprising to me. Because tight calf muscles and tight Achilles tendons tug at your plantar fascia, causing heel pain.
So be warned. Ignore your Achilles tendon issues and the problems will progress. Want a better solution? Learn the symptoms of tendinitis. And address them right away!
Symptoms of Tendinitis
Pain is the most obvious tendinitis symptom. Sometimes, you may notice swelling around your tendon. But that's not always the case.
We also worry that your tendon may tear because of untreated inflammation. If you tear your Achilles tendon, walking will become very difficult. And you may need surgery to repair this tendinitis injury.
Luckily, with early treatment, you can resolve the inflammation of tendinitis. And avoid complications like tears in your tendon. So now, let's explore how we treat tendinitis. So you can find pain relief and prevent complications.
How do we Treat Tendon Inflammation?
When we treat inflammation in your Achilles tendon, we want to take a two-pronged approach. First, we relieve your pain. Then, we address the underlying cause of your condition.
The first step towards pain relief is giving yourself a break. I'll have you follow the Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation (RICE) method. At the first sign of discomfort. Then, if pain persists after a few days of RICE, it's time to come into our Houston podiatry practice.
We can give you prescription medications to relieve pain and inflammation. But we can also help correct the problems leading to that inflammation. We'll give you a gait analysis. So we can tell if your athletic technique is to blame. And if it is? We can give you tips to help you run or train in a way that puts less strain on your tendon.
Running Stride Adjustments to Prevent Achilles Tendon Pain
If I think your running style is causing tendinitis, I may recommend a gait analysis. Then, depending on what we notice, you may benefit from making these changes to your stride. Because they make you more efficient when you run, that will put less stress on your tendon.
Landing with your Foot Under Your Body
With this style of your running, your feet land right beneath you. And that's important because it keeps your posture neutral. (Which can prevent running injuries.)
Full Foot Landing
You've probably heard me talk about pronation. (That's when your feet roll inward.) If you pronate or supinate (feet roll outward), you'll land on the edge of your feet when you run. That can lead to added tension on your tendon. And we can often correct the issue with orthotics. But we can also change your stride by having you focus on involving your big toe and forefoot every time you push off to move.
Physical Considerations to Manage
But what if a physical imbalance like flat feet is the cause of your tendinitis? Don't worry! In this case, prescription medical devices can help.
I can provide you with a combination of tools. These include, night splints, custom orthotics and ankle supports. Plus, I can recommend physical therapy. Since this will help prevent relapses once your pain has resolved.
Now, some people face persistent tendinitis pain. But even then, I can help. I've seen many patients find pain relief with the help of shockwave therapy.
I say all this with one warning. You have to come to the office to get help for tendinitis. Because I can't help you if you're stuck at home, wishing your pain away. So schedule an appointment with our office today. So you can begin your return to pain-free movement.