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Achilles tendinitis is the inflammation of the Achilles tendon, generally due to over-exertion of the affected limb. The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body. It connects the calf muscle to the heel bone, and is used when walking, running and jumping.
Achilles tendinitis is not usually related to a particular injury. It arises due to repeated stress to the tendon, and the likelihood of its occurrence can be increased by a number of factors, including:
· Decreased flexibility with age;
· Recent changes of footwear; and
· Dramatic increase in high-impact exercise.
The Achilles tendon receives limited nutrients and blood supply from the surrounding sheath. As such, when injured, it is necessary for cells, blood vessels and nerve fibres to migrate from adjacent structures to the Achilles tendon.
Healing is promoted through the introduction of the temporary, direct blood supply. Researchers believe the presence of migrated nerve fibres to be the source of the soreness.
Symptoms and diagnosis
The main symptom of Achilles tendinitis is visible inflammation and pain in the back of the heel, particularly during exercise. Upon examination, an inflamed Achilles tendon is sore when pressed between the fingers.
This differs from a partially- or wholly torn Achilles tendon, which is regarded as a very serious injury. In such a situation, a patient would present with severe pain and an inability to walk on the affected limb.
A palpable defect would also be observable along the tendon.
Seeing a health professional for treatment is imperative, as repeated strain to an inflamed Achilles tendon may culminate in a rupture of the tendon. Treatment may include:
· Cold compression therapy;
· Heel pads to minimize the strain on the tendon;
· Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs;
· Rehabilitation; or
· Manual therapy.
Rice therapy can assist in limiting pain and additional damage. Should be followed for 48-72 hours.