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What is Achilles tendinitis? (inflammation of the Achilles tendon)
Inflammation of the Achilles tendon is a state of irritation in the heel tendon, the area around it and its attachment to the backside of the heel bone. This is a sterile condition without bacteria, which makes it an inflammation.
The 3 large leg muscles on the leg combine to form the Achilles tendon, which attaches to the heel bone. The function of these muscles is to bend the knee and stretch the foot. They are therefore used extensively in everyday activities like walking, running or jumping. The Achilles tendon is the strongest tendon in the human body. Like all other tendons, the Achilles tendon hardens as the body grows older and this increases the risk of injuries.
Despite the strength of the Achilles tendon, many people suffer injuries related to this tendon. This is usually caused by putting an increased load on the tendon e.g. by increasing one’s walking or running distance or number of jumps. Running, walking or jumping on hard surfaces, as well as hard shoes and abnormal footing (tendency to flatfoot or hollow foot) also increases the risk of igniting an Inflammation of the Achilles tendon.
When the Achilles tendon becomes overloaded it feels sore and will often swell due to the inflammation. It is important to be respectful of these symptoms. If the pain is ignored and the overload continues, the tendon becomes more likely to rupture. A ruptured Achilles tendon will often require surgery.
You should avoid jumping, running or similar activities that burden your Achilles tendon. However, it is important to remain physically active, which, besides furthering the treatment of your Achilles tendon, will help you prevent and reduce pain in the rest of your muscles and joints.
Most people will usually be able to cycle, swim and walk short distances. You should wear soft shock-absorbing shoes, preferably with a small heel lift, to relieve the Achilles tendon during everyday activities.
Movement and stability exercises
If you suffer from an inflammation in your Achilles tendon it is important to continue using your ankle and train its stability. It is common to experience some amount of pain in the Achilles tendon both during and after exercising. However, the pain shouldn’t be significant and the level of pain should quickly return to the level experienced before performing the activity. Pain must not increase from day to day. The exercise ‘Heel lifts with bended knees’ is great for improving stability and can be found in the exercise examples below.
Stretching the leg muscles and the Achilles tendon is a core part of treating inflammation in the Achilles tendon. Stretches can be performed while standing on a staircase with your heels extending out over the stairstep. Alternatively, you can use a wall as in the example below. Stretching exercises should be performed slowly and must be held for around 30 seconds.
Strength Training is an important part of exercising. This builds op the ability of the Achilles tendon to withstand the pressure from daily activities, work, and sports without risking further damage. It typically takes between 3 to 6 months to build up sufficient strength in the Achilles tendon.