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Everyone knows that when you are speaking of a person’s “Achilles’ heel,” you are speaking about their weakness. No, it does not necessarily have to be a part of the body, it can be anything that can make a person weak by its very presence. The Achilles tendon can easily become a weakness in your body if you do not take proper care of it. It is the tendon that attaches the calf muscles to the heel bone, or calcaneus. This is the tendon that is used when you jump, walk, run or stand on the balls of your feet.


What problems can occur in the Achilles tendon?

Continuous or intense physical activity, including running and jumping, can cause painful inflammation of the Achilles tendon, called tendonitis. Insertional tendonitis affects the lower portion of the tendon where it attaches to the heel bone. Noninsertional tendonitis affects the fibers in the middle portion of the tendon. Younger people who are more active tend to be prone to this type of tendonitis. Proper stretching and warming up before any type of running or other physical activity can reduce the chance of tendonitis developing.
Rheumatoid arthritis and other infections have been linked directly to tendonitis developing. Sticking to the medication plan your doctor has prescribed for your rheumatoid arthritis is key to keeping it under control. While you may feel good one day, that does not mean you can afford to skip a day of your medication. Yes, it is true that prescribed medication treats the symptoms of a disease or disorder, and it can also be a preventative step in keeping the symptoms from getting worse or stopping new symptoms from starting. If you have noticed an infection developing on your foot, leaving it untreated can make your Achilles tendon develop problems with tendonitis.
Women who wear high heels for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis can be prone to developing tendonitis issues. Yes, it is important to have a professional look while you are working, but it does not mean you need to spend countless hours wearing high heels every day. Raising your feet up to the height of high heels on a daily basis can cause heavy pressure on the balls of your feet, which is very close to the Achilles tendon. It can also cause prolonged stretching of the feet that can cause damage over time. You may want to think about walking into the office in a pair of walking shoes or sneakers. While it may not look very fashionable, your feet will thank you for the comfort they feel. Since you spend all day going from meeting to meeting in your high heels, it will also feel relaxing to walk to your car at the end of the day in those same walking shoes or sneakers. For the sake of your feet, you may even want to consider buying some flat shoes with good support, especially if you are on your feet a lot during the day or do a lot of walking. Flats are also good to keep in your car, especially if you tend to stop and do some shopping on the way home. It will be much more comfortable walking around in flats than high heels.
Bone spurs in the heels that are left untreated can also cause painful issues in the Achilles tendon. Most of the time walking around in newer shoes with excellent support can reduce the amount of pressure you feel in the tendon.


What are the symptoms of Achilles tendon problems?

Someone experiencing tendonitis will feel the discomfort of swelling and pain in the back of their heels. Each walking step becomes more and more painful. The same pain can be felt with each running step. Your calf muscles become tighter and tighter as you walk. The skin on the lower part of your legs and heels will feel like it is burning, and it will feel warm to the touch. If you try to flex your foot in a few different directions, your range of motion may be greatly limited.


How do you treat Achilles tendon problems?

Many times when you are experiencing tendon problems in your foot, your doctor can feel and observe the range of motion and flexibility. Sometimes the issues can be clearly seen, and the doctor can conclude that the issue exists. However, sometimes, despite your pain, everything appears to be normal. It is likely that your doctor will send you for an X-ray, MRI or ultrasound. If your doctor cannot see the issue after examining you, the X-ray, MRI or ultrasound will definitely be able to catch an issue that exists. After viewing the results, your doctor will likely have a suggested course of treatment for you.
In most mild cases, you will be directed to take the typical anti-inflammatory medications as needed and directed. Resting and reducing your amount of physical activity will go a long way in healing your problems. If you do have to exercise or perform physical activity, icing the injured area directly afterward is recommended to help bring down the swelling. Compression may also help relieve your symptoms, and your doctor can suggest the proper compression brace or garment. Elevating your foot before, during and after icing will also help bring down the swelling.
Physical therapy may be suggested for patients who have experienced frequent tendon issues with weakness. It will build up the strength in the Achilles tendon and maybe even prevent further injury. Corrective surgery may be suggested for patients with severe tendonitis or other tendon issues. Physical therapy will likely be suggested after surgery to build up strength in the tendon and the surrounding areas again.