It is a good thing your feet and legs have strong tendons and muscles, because they endure a lot through the course of your life. One of the strongest is your Achilles tendon running along the back of your ankle. You can feel it if you pinch the back of your foot above your heel. This tissue band connects your calcaneus (heel bone) to the muscles in your leg, and it is involved in almost every movement with your feet. When the tendon is damaged or develops tiny tears, it will swell and become inflamed—a condition known as Achilles tendonitis.
Do I Have Achilles Tendonitis?
Symptoms that may indicate this injury include pain, stiffness, swelling, or a lump at the back of your ankle. Pain may come on gradually. It may be worse when you begin exercising and then ease off. It may disappear when you rest, and then start up again the next time you exercise. You will probably feel pain especially when you stand on your tiptoes or push off for a step. Gradually, you may notice the tissue thickening or swelling up at the back of your ankle. A lump may form, either where the tendon inserts into your heel bone, or an inch or two above your heel. This thickening may be very tender to the touch and be irritated by your footwear. If you feel pain especially when standing on tiptoe or climbing stairs, it is likely you have this condition.
How Did I Get It?
Damage to your Achilles usually comes from overuse. Repetitive stress from running, jumping, or just walking a lot can cause wear and tear on the tissue. An accident can cause immediate trauma to the area as well. Your risk for developing this injury increases if you: are middle aged and not used to physical activity; don’t warm up or stretch before exercising; have tight calf muscles—either inherited or from wearing high heels often; often run long distances or on hills; play basketball, tennis, soccer or dance, with their start, stops, and jumping; start a new exercise regimen or suddenly increase its intensity or duration; overpronate—your feet roll in too much with each step; or don’t wear the right shoes.
What Do I Do for Achilles Tendonitis?
There are some things you can do at home to treat the symptoms. The first is to rest from—or at least reduce—the activity that is causing the injury. Next, try icing or cold therapy to ease the swelling and pain. Then, check your shoes. They need to have the right support for your feet and be designed for the activity you are doing. You may want to try a temporary heel lift (make sure you use it for both feet) to cushion and support your heel. Finally, try a gentle stretching program that focuses on your calf muscles and Achilles tendon. Stand facing a wall with your hands on it at shoulder height. Step one foot back, heel on the floor, and gently lean forward on the other leg. If you keep the back leg straight, you will feel the stretch in your calves. You can also try standing with your toes on a stair step, holding on to the railing. Gently rise on your toes and let your heels drop down below the step to stretch your Achilles.
When You Need More Help
If home remedies aren’t taking care of your pain, you need to visit the Palmer Foot Clinic in Winnipeg, MB, for an examination. Podiatrist Iain Palmer is a specialist who understands the strain that vigorous activities can put on your feet and ankles. From diagnosing the exact cause of your pain to designing the best treatment for your situation, we put your feet first! Call (204) 697-0649 today. We’ll have you back to enjoying your favorite activities as soon as possible.