The Achilles tendon is the band of tissue connecting the heel bone to the calf muscle of the leg. An injury may cause the tendon to become inflamed or torn. Achilles tendonitis is the term for the tendon being inflamed. Inflammation or a tear of the tendon causes pain at the back of the leg near the heel.
How does it occur?
The Achilles tendon may tear during sudden activity like jumping or sprinting. Achilles tendonitis can be caused by:
Overuse of the Achilles tendon, as in excessive uphill running.
Aggressive sports training with bad footwear (racing shoes with less heel lift).
Over-pronation - the feet roll inward and flatten out more than normal on walking or running.
Wearing high heels at work and then switching to lower-heeled shoes for exercise.
What are the symptoms?
Achilles tendon injury causes pain, tenderness and swelling over the achilles tendon. There is pain on rising up on toes that stretches the tendon. The range of motion of the ankle joint may be limited. When the tendon tears or ruptures, a pop may be felt. In a complete tear, there will be inability to lift the heel off the ground.
How is it treated?
Ice packs should be put on the Achilles tendon for 20 to 30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours for the first 2 or 3 days or until the pain goes away. Raise the lower leg on a pillow on lying down. The doctor will prescribe anti-inflammatory medication.
A heel lift insert for the shoe may be worn if prescribed by the doctor, till at least the tendon heals. The lift prevents extra stretching of the Achilles tendon. Modify the sports or activities to prevent strain on the Achilles tendon. Exercises to stretch and strengthen the Achilles tendon should be done after the pain settles down. The doctor may prescribe custom-made shoe-inserts, called orthotics to keep the foot stable. A tear of the tendon may require surgery or the foot may be put in a cast for several weeks.