It’s a New Year, new you and one of the most common New Year’s resolutions—getting in shape—can lead people to be overly enthusiastic about starting an exercise program, which at New England Foot & Ankle Specialists means we’ll most likely be seeing more patients with Achilles tendon issues. The Achilles tendon is the band of tissue that connects your calf muscles to your heel bone. It is the largest tendon in your body and can withstand forces of 1,000 pounds or more. It is also the most frequently damaged tendon in the body and this damage is most often the result of exercising the tendon too much, too soon.
Jumping into a running or other fitness program and rapidly increasing speed and distance without working up to it gradually will cause pain and inflammation in the Achilles tendon. Other causes of Achilles tendonitis include inadequate stretching and warming up before beginning exercising, improper footwear, and excessive hill or stair climbing. In cases where there is a sudden, extreme contraction of the calf muscle, like when you take off in a sprint, it is possible to actually tear or rupture the tendon.
How to Recognize Achilles Tendonitis
At first, you may notice mild pain after running or exercising that gets worse gradually and may be severe at times. You may experience swelling in the back of your leg and a feeling of sluggishness or stiffness in the tendon area. Our podiatrists, George A. Abboud, D.P.M., Brian D. Tedesco, D.P.M., Carl Conui, D.P.M., and Kimberly Thurmond, D.P.M. will take a complete medical history and examine your foot and ankle. X-rays, an MRI or other imaging studies may be ordered to give a clearer view of the Achilles tendon and to rule out other conditions that produce similar symptoms.
Once a diagnosis of Achilles tendonitis is confirmed, the foot doctor will recommend the appropriate treatment which may include any or all of the following:
- Rest and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication to relieve the symptoms and reduce inflammation
- Physical therapy to stretch the Achilles tendon
- Orthotics to position the foot in a way that decreases stress on the tendon
- A special bandage that restricts the motion of the tendon
- Cross training that includes exercise activities that do not put strain on the tendon, such as swimming
- Surgery, usually only for extreme cases or if the tendon has been ruptured
So take it slow if you are starting up a new exercise routine in the New Year and if you have any questions about your fitness plan and your feet, schedule a consultation at one of our Middlesex County offices by calling (781) 944-4044.