Your Achilles tendon plays an important role in the movement of your foot. It joins the muscles in your calf to your heel bone, so a damaged Achilles tendon can restrict your ability to move your foot in a circular motion or move it up and down. Achilles tendinopathy occurs when you injure your Achilles tendon and scar tissue develops around the tendon. Bands of scar tissue reduce the tendon's flexibility, making movement painful. Here's what you need to know about Achilles tendinopathy:
Causes And Symptoms
Achilles tendinopathy can be caused by anything that puts too much pressure on your feet such as a poor running technique, footwear that doesn't offer adequate support and flat or high-arched feet. You can also develop Achilles tendinopathy as a complication of ankylosing spondylitis, which is an arthritic condition.
Common symptoms of Achilles tendinopathy include stiffness and localised swelling around your heel that may spread to the rest of your foot. Pain around your heel can intensify when you're on your feet, so your daily activities may be restricted.
Diagnosis And Treatment
Your podiatrist will examine and flex your foot to determine the degree of movement restriction. They may also arrange an x-ray or MRI of your foot if they suspect something else could be contributing to your symptoms. Treatment for Achilles tendinopathy can include the following:
If the pain and swelling is severe, you may be advised to take painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication, which can help start the healing process by allowing more blood flow to the injured tendon. Always consult your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications.
You should refrain from high-impact exercises, but staying off the affected foot altogether can make the stiffness worse. Your podiatrist will show you how to do gentle stretching and strengthening exercises at home, which will increase the flexibility of your foot by reducing stiffness.
Custom-made orthotic insoles alter the distribution of weight across your feet and can be made to relieve pressure on your Achilles tendon. They are particularly useful for those with flat or high-arched feet. Taking pressure off the tendon allows it time to heal, and you should notice the swelling coming down after only a week or so of using the insoles. Your podiatrist will measure your feet and write a prescription for insoles that you simply slip into whatever shoes you want to wear each day.
Surgery is only usually suggested if more conservative treatments have failed. The operation is straightforward and involves severing the scar tissue around your Achilles tendon. This frees the tendon and gives you back the full range of movement in your foot.
If you're experiencing pain or swelling around your heel, schedule an appointment with your podiatrist as soon as possible. For more information, contact a local clinic like Tim Pain Podiatry.