Common Causes of Achilles Pain
The most common cause of pain in the Achilles tendon is tendonitis. Tendonitis is the inflammation and irritation of the Achilles tendon, which is the large tendon running up the back of the ankle, connecting the heel bone to the calf muscle. This inflammation and irritation can cause pain and swelling, and if the condition is not taken care of it can lead to small tears within the tendon, making it susceptible to rupture.
There are a variety of causes of achilles tendonitis, but the most common causes are a lack of flexibility and overpronation of the feet. Other causes include changes in duration or intensity of exercise, or a change in footwear.
Age can also be a contributing factor, with middle-aged recreational athletes being the most likely to be affected by this condition. As we age, our tissues become less flexible and more rigid, making us more prone to injuries. Because middle-aged recreational athletes train just as hard as younger athletes, but may suffer from less flexible tendons, they are more likely to experience this condition.
Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis
Achilles tendonitis pain is usually described as pain over the back of the heel, where the tendon connects with the heel bone. This is not to be confused with plantar fasciitis, which is where the plantar fascia connects to the heel bone on the underside of the foot, at the base of the arch and heel. The Achilles tendon connects on the back of the heel, where the foot and ankle come together.
Pain from achilles tendonitis is most commonly felt after periods of inactivity. People often experience pain, soreness, or stiffness first thing in the morning, and pain may also be worse after sitting or lying down for extended periods of time. Activities such as running and jumping exert force on the tendon which can also be a cause of pain, with the motion of pushing off with the foot being the most significant cause of pain.
Treatments and Stretches for Achilles Tendonitis
If not properly taken care of, Achilles tendonitis can develop into a chronic problem. The inflammation of the Achilles tendon can lead to degenerative changes in the tendon, such as small tears and possible rupture.
Because Achilles tendonitis can cause further and chronic pain, it is important to treat it immediately. Resting from rigorous activities in combination with stretching and icing can help reduce inflammation and promote healing. Regularly performing Achilles stretches like the wall stretch can help temporarily reduce pain and soreness, and reduce occurrences of injury in the future.
Additionally, wearing proper shoes and heel inserts can improve alignment of the feet and lower legs, reducing pain from achilles tendonitis.