The Achilles tendon runs down the back of the leg and connects the calf muscle to the back of the heel. In can become inflamed due to overuse or inflexibility. Younger people tend to strain the Achilles just above the heel, whereas when people age the strain is felt higher up, closer to where the tendon connects to the calf. An inflamed Achilles may feel tender and stiff.
Running or over-exertion will tighten the calf muscle. When the muscle becomes too tight, it disrupts normal foot biomechanics and the Achilles becomes strained and inflamed. Increasing your level of activity or running hills too quickly can lead to inflammation of the tendon. If this level of activity is maintained despite the pain, the inflammation can result in a partial tear of the tendon. In time, a portion of the tendon will die and the remaining, now weakened tendon can easily rupture.
Reduce or stop any aggravating activities. Take an anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen, two or three times a day. Massage the Achilles with ice several times a day. In some cases a 1 – 2 cm heel lift will reduce the tension in the tendon. If the pain persists after 10 – 14 days you should see your doctor, a sports-oriented physical therapist or podiatrist. If your Achilles tendonitis continues to be chronic and unresponsive to other conservative measures, you may be a good candidate for Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy.
Since tight calf muscles and tight tendons lead to Achilles tendonitis, stretching is essential. It is best to stretch your tendon after your activity (e.g. running). This way the tendon is warm and much more receptive to a slow and gradual stretch. Never stretch to the point of pain. Consider switching to a firm, motion-control shoe in order to limit rear foot motion and over-pronation, and make certain that there isn’t any pressure or rubbing from your shoes on the Achilles tendon.
You do not want to run through Achilles tendonitis. Even the mildest strains can turn into a partial or complete rupture, which could lead to permanent damage.