Don’t Ignore Achilles Heel Pain

You don’t have to be an elite athlete to suffer Achilles tendon injuries. They can occur even from performing minor household tasks, such as climbing a ladder. According to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS), Achilles tendon weakness is common in adults and prompt treatment when symptoms occur can prevent more serious injury.

“The Achilles tendon is the longest and strongest tendon in the body, but is subjected to considerable wear and tear,” said Gerald Travers, DPM, FACFAS, a foot and ankle surgeon in Colorado Springs. “When the tendon becomes inflamed from overuse or too much sudden stress, tendonitis can weaken it over time and cause microscopic tears,” said Travers. “Going without treatment increases risk for further deterioration and possible rupture.”

According to the ACFAS consumer Web site, FootPhysicans.com, pain, stiffness and tenderness in the area are the main symptoms of Achilles tendonitis. Pain occurs in the morning, improves with motion but gets worse with increasing stress and activity.

“In addition to athletes, Achilles problems are common for anyone whose work routine puts constant stress on the feet and ankles,” said Travers. “These injuries happen most often to less conditioned, ‘weekend warrior’ athletes who overdo it. But I’ve also had patients who have ruptured the tendon simply by climbing a ladder quickly.”

When pain and other symptoms indicate possible Achilles tendonitis, Travers said a foot and ankle surgeon will make a thorough diagnosis and evaluate flexibility and range of motion in the tendon. Treatment options vary depending on severity and include casting, ice, anti-inflammatory pain medication, physical therapy and surgery if other options fail.

Travers noted recreational activities involving jumping and running are the major cause of Achilles tendon injuries. “In sports like basketball and tennis, muscles and tendons in the back of the leg are prone to injury from an imbalance that occurs from a lot of forward motion. The imbalance can weaken the tendon unless stretching exercises are performed regularly.”

He added the best ways to prevent Achilles tendon injuries are to warm up gradually by walking and stretching. Further, it’s best to avoid strenuous sprinting or hill running if you are not in shape for it.