Achilles tendinosis is a medical condition that concerns the degeneration or inflammation of the Achilles tendon. It is a condition that is commonly found in professional athletes, sprinters, and marathon runners. Achilles tendinosis mostly occurs in patients who are between the age groups of 30 and 50 years. However, the condition is usually seen in older patients.
What is the Achilles Tendon?
The Achilles tendon is found just behind and above the heel. It is the tendon that joins the heel bone to the calf muscles of the leg. Also known as calcaneal tendon, it is the largest tendon in the body. The main function of the Achilles tendon is to stabilize the ankle joint and allow the muscles of the leg to bend easily. It also helps a person to maintain balance while doing activities like running, walking, and jumping.
Causes of Achilles Tendinosis
The main cause for Achilles Tendinosis is overuse of the leg muscles and the tendon. When a great amount of strain is placed on the leg and foot, this results in tiny tears on the tendon. The strain can also be caused by performing certain activities on a daily basis. A few examples of these activities include:
- Physical activities like running
- Using wrong or high-heeled footwear
- Improperly performing physical exercises
- Performing exercises on hard or slanting surfaces, where pressure will be placed on the tendon.
Symptoms of Achilles Tendinosis
Achilles tendinosis is a chronic problem. This means that it develops gradually, and once the condition has matured, it lasts for a long time. The main symptoms include pain and stiffness around the Achilles tendon. These two symptoms tend to develop gradually. The patient experiences pain when he wakes up in the morning, as well as pain in the heel and along the tendon while walking or running. While there are no symptoms like redness or warm skin, the tendon area can be very painful to the touch. In some patients, the heel and tendon area can also swell up.
The doctor will enquire about the different symptoms and conduct an examination. After the examination, the doctor can come to a diagnosis of Achilles tendinosis. In certain cases, the doctor may need to do further tests to confirm if there are any tears in the Achilles tendon. An ultrasound scan and an MRI scan can provide information regarding the pathology taking place inside the leg.
Treatment for Achilles tendinosis is selected on the basis of severity, chronicity of the condition, and the extent of damage to the tendon. In early stages, when there is sudden (acute) inflammation, one or more of the following options may be recommended:
- Rest or Immobilization: Generally, a patient is asked to take rest and refrain from performing physical activities. In severe cases, the heel and foot may be immobilized by using a cast to reduce the degeneration of the Achilles tendon. This helps to heal the inflammation. Doctors also recommend getting specialized footwear to reduce stress on the heel and foot.
- Ice: The patient should apply an ice pack to the area for 20 minutes on a daily basis. This will help reduce the swelling and inflammation.
- Oral Medications: Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) i.e. over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen may be helpful in reducing the pain and inflammation during the early stages of the condition.
- Physiotherapy: This treatment involves the patient performing stretching and strengthening exercises to aid mobilization. Regular analysis is also done for gait, walking, standing, and running. Medical counseling is also provided. An ultrasound can also be used to reduce the inflammation.
- Local injection: PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) injections are also a preferable treatment for Achilles tendinosis. Sometimes, corticosteroid injections are also given to reduce inflammation.
Achilles Tendinosis can cause immense physical pain and mental discomfort to a patient. An understanding of the symptoms, complete diagnosis from a physician, along with proper treatment can help a patient quickly recover from the condition.