Achilles tendinitis is a condition causing pain, stiffness and swelling with walking or moving the foot. If treated quickly and properly, this tendon irritation will normally resolve. However, if left untreated, Achilles tendinitis can turn into a chronic condition and even result in the tearing of the tendon.
Tendinitis is the irritation or inflammation of the Achilles tendon. A tendon is a band of connective tissue which connects muscles to bone. The Achilles tendon, also known as the calcaneal tendon, is located on the back of the leg at the ankle. It connects the calf muscles to the calcaneus or heel bone. Achilles tendinitis is a protective response to an injury in which too much stress is put on the ankle/foot area. This form of inflammation can also be caused by wear and tear from overuse.
Ice Vs. Heat in Injury Treatment
An acute injury is a problem with a sudden onset, typically as a result of some type of injury, which can last several days. Symptoms include swelling, redness and heat in the area. During the acute phase of an injury, the use of ice is recommended to constrict the blood vessels, thus reducing the amount of swelling and pain of the area.
A chronic injury is a slow developing, long-lasting problem. During this phase, the application of heat may help ease pain issues. However, if inflammation or swelling is present, using heat will only exacerbate the symptoms. Heat dilates the blood vessels and causes an increase in blood flow to the area, thus increasing swelling issues.
How to Treat Acute Achilles Tendinitis
During the acute phase of Achilles tendinitis, the treatment of choice includes rest, ice application, compression and elevation. Applying ice to the area in 15-minute intervals can decrease swelling and pain. It is also recommended to seek medical advice to rule out other causes or complications.
How to Treat Chronic Achilles Tendinitis
Chronic Achilles tendinitis is a recurrence of the pain and stiffness in the tendon area which can occur with or without inflammation. When this irritation becomes chronic it is usually due to overuse issues or the general biomechanics of the foot and ankle. Chronic Achilles problems can be managed through the application of heat or ice.
Heat can be used to reduce pain symptoms and to warm up before physical activities. However, heat should be avoided if there are signs of inflammation or swelling, and after activities. If inflammation is present, ice should be applied. Ice should also be used if symptoms are intensified by heat.
Management of Achilles Tendinitis
Achilles tendinitis can take several days to several weeks to heal. Along with the application of ice to injury, compression and elevation also help to minimize swelling and pain issues. Once resuming normal activities, begin with a gentle stretch to the area and start off slow to avoid complications, such as microtears to the tendon, which may lead to a chronic problem.