Greek mythology tells the tale of a great warrior named Achilles whose mother dipped him into the River Styx to make him invincible. But she held him by the heel, so that portion didn’t touch the magical waters and remained his only vulnerability.
Ironically, contrary to the lore, your Achilles heel is actually the strongest tendon in your body, but when tendonitis sets in, it may feel as though you’re being attacked by its namesake.
Dr. Daniel Preece and Dr. Darren Groberg, our podiatrists at Utah Musculoskeletal Specialists in Salt Lake City, Utah, understand the discomfort caused by Achilles tendonitis, and we’re here to explain the symptoms that go along with it. If you’re experiencing any of these problems, come in and see us for expert care and effective treatments.
The number one sign of Achilles tendonitis is pain. It may begin with mild tenderness or moderate soreness that progresses into full-blown pain. You may feel pain at the back of your heel and notice that it intensifies when you’re active. Often Achilles tendonitis pain feels even worse the day after you’ve engaged in strenuous exercise.
Along with pain, stiffness is a classic symptom of Achilles tendonitis — especially in the morning. If hopping out of bed shocks your heel, and you shuffle rather than walk across the floor the first thing after waking up, it could be tendonitis.
Achilles tendonitis occurs when your tendon is inflamed, so it stands to reason that you may see the effects on the outside as well. A swollen Achilles tendon typically stays that way all day long, and you may notice that it gets even worse throughout the course of the day.
Severe Achilles tendonitis can actually alter the diameter of your tendon. The average human Achilles tendon is about 6 mm, but chronic inflammation or a rupture can lead to thickening of the tendon — to 8 mm or more.
Your Achilles tendon is the longest tendon in your body, and it runs from your calf muscle to your heel bone. Inflammation and injury can occur anywhere along the path, but when it happens in the lower portion, a condition called insertional Achilles tendonitis, the fibers may calcify and harden. This bony growth is called a bone spur — an issue common to many sprinters and long distance runners.
Achilles tendonitis often responds well to conservative treatments such as cold therapy, immobilization, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. Moderate cases may need a little extra time and care, including orthotics, nighttime splints, and physical therapy to help you strengthen the supporting structures.
However, if your Achilles tendonitis is chronic and severe or is accompanied by a rupture, surgery may be the most effective course of treatment. In this case, you can count on our team of foot and ankle surgeons to deliver the best care using the most advanced techniques.
To learn more about Achilles tendonitis or to find out if your symptoms point to this painful condition, schedule an appointment with us online or call us at 801-285-6332 today.