What is the Achilles Tendon?
The Achilles tendon is the thickest and strongest tendon in your body. It runs along the back of your lower leg and inserts onto the heel bone. When running, the Achilles tendon may endure up to 8 times your body weight. Because of this stress, the Achilles tendon can be easily injured. This condition is known as Achilles tendinitis and is a common cause of leg and heel pain in an active individual.
While there are many factors which may cause Achilles tendinitis such as the lack of flexibility, it is commonly caused by overuse. This occurs when there is a sudden change in activity level without proper training or conditioning. If you just ran up and down the hills of Seattle and the back of your heel hurts, you may have Achilles tendinitis.
Achilles tendinitis often begins with swelling and an ache or stiffness in the back of the leg and heel. If left untreated, the pain can worsen, and in severe cases, the tendon may even rupture.
Most cases of Achilles tendinitis can be treated conservatively. Initial treatments can include rest, ice, gentle stretching, splints, and oral or topical medications. Physical therapy can provide additional relief. In some cases, the Achilles tendon may require temporary immobilization with a walking boot. Surgery may be necessary if the pain worsens despite conservative treatments.
Once the pain resolves, it is important to gradually return to activities to avoid re-aggravating the Achilles tendon. Proper shoes, orthotics, stretching, and strengthening exercises can help prevent future injuries.