Early symptoms of Achilles tendinitis
The early symptoms of Achilles tendinitis include pain that starts as a mild ache in the back of the leg or above the heel after running or performing other sporting activities. More severe pain can be a result of prolonged running, stair-climbing, or sprinting. Tenderness and stiffness are also possible, in particular in the morning.
Achilles tendinitis symptoms include:
- Sore Achilles tendon a few inches above where it meets the heel bone.
- Stiff lower leg.
- Slow and weak lower leg.
- Slight pain in the back of the leg after running or exercising.
- Pain in the Achilles tendon while running or a couple of hours afterward.
- Greater pain when running fast for a long time.
- Swollen and warm Achilles tendon.
- Achilles tendon creaks when touched or moved.
- Trouble standing up on one toe.
This condition occurs when the Achilles tendon – the band of tissue connecting the calf muscles to the heel bone, which is used when walking, running, jumping, or pushing up on one’s toes – is subjected to repetitive or intense strain.
Causes of Achilles tendinitis include the following:
- Running with incorrect or worn out shoes.
- Lack of warming up before exercise.
- Increasing intensity of exercise too quickly.
- Prematurely adding hill running or stair climbing to exercise routine.
- Running on hard or uneven surfaces.
- Calf muscle is injured or not flexible.
- Sudden intense physical activity; e.g., sprinting for the finish line.
- Jumping a lot.
Achilles tendinitis is common in walkers, runners, and other athletes. In addition to that,
- Men experience Achilles tendinitis more often than women.
- The structure of the tendon weakens with age.
- A naturally flat arch in the foot can put more strain on the Achilles tendon, as do obesity and tight calf muscles.
- People with psoriasis or high blood pressure have an increased risk of suffering from Achilles tendinitis.
- Antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones have been linked to higher rates of Achilles tendinitis.
Tendinitis of the heel can lead to a degenerative condition called Achilles tendinosis, where the structure of the tendon becomes susceptible to an Achilles rupture or tear – a sharply painful injury that requires surgery. Fortunately, most treatment options for Achilles tendinitis do not involve a surgical procedure. And while tendinitis tends to respond well to self-care – such as applying a cold pack on the affected area for 15-20 minutes – it isn’t a bad idea at all to see a doctor about it. The doctor will press gently on the affected area during a physical exam to establish the location of pain, as well as tenderness or swelling. The physician will also assess flexibility, alignment, range-of-motion, and reflexes in the foot and ankle, and may order x-rays, ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging tests.
Achilles tendinitis treatments
Changes in activity
Changes in footwear
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Related: 4 Common Ankle and Foot Injuries