Achilles tendonitis: Inflammation of the Achilles tendon, the tough sinew that attaches the calf muscle to the back of the calcaneus or heel bone.
Achilles tendonitis causes pain and often swelling over the Achilles tendon. The tendon is tender and may be swollen. There is pain on rising up on the toes and pain with stretching of the tendon. The range of motion of the ankle may be limited.
The causes of Achilles tendonitis include overuse of the tendon, overly tight calf muscles or Achilles tendons, excess uphill running, sudden increase in the intensity of training, sometimes along with switching to racing shoes, or wearing high heels at work and then switching to a lower heeled workout shoe. Exerting rapid stress on the Achilles tendon when it is inflamed can result in rupture of the tendon.
Treatment includes ice packs to the Achilles tendon, raising the lower leg, and an anti-inflammatory medication. In some severe cases of Achilles tendonitis, a cast may be needed for several weeks. The doctor may also prescribe a heel lift insert for the shoe to prevent future overstretching of the Achilles tendon.
Prevention of Achilles tendonitis includes stretching the calf muscles and Achilles tendons carefully before doing vigorous activities. If the Achilles tendons or calf muscles are especially tight, it is a good idea to stretch them twice a day whether or not sports activities are planned that day.
Historical aside: According to Greek mythology, Achilles's mother held him as a baby by the heel and dipped him in the river Styx to make him invulnerable but the heel by which she held him remained unimmersed and hence vulnerable, as Paris' arrow in Achilles' heel later proved. As anyone who has suffered Achilles tendonitis knows, the Achilles tendon is indeed a point of vulnerability.
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