Heel Pain: It Could Be Your Achilles Tendons Acting Up

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If your heels hurt throughout the day, even when you don't walk or stand, you may have something wrong with your Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon can experience injury or inflammation when you place too much stress on it during exercise, such as when running and jumping. Here are things to know about your Achilles tendon, how exercise can hurt your tendon, and what you can do to stop your pain.

Why Does Your Achilles Tendons Hurt?

Although the Achilles tendon is the strongest, thickest, and most resilient tendon in your body, you can still injure or damage it over time. The tendon forms a connective bridge between your calf muscle and heel bone. You use this powerful bridge to walk, run, hop, and even jump long distances. Achilles tendons can weaken as you get older. But you can also prematurely wear down the tendons when you perform activities that require you to use your calf muscles a lot.

Running uphill, navigating tough terrain, or performing similar activities can be particularly stressful on the tendons. These activities require you to contract your calf muscles on a regular basis. When you contract your calf muscles, they activate the tendons attached to them. The tendons tug on your heel bones, which allows you to lift your feet from the ground.

A tendon can tear or become irritated due to repeated use, or it can rupture or pull loose from the heel bone during highly stressful situations. Sometimes, tendon problems develop from wearing improper footwear. The shoes, sneakers, or boots might not support your feet when you exercise. The soft cushions (bursae) that keep your Achilles tendons from rubbing against your heel bones might swell up and affect your tendons. 

When the injury or inflammation occurs, you might notice swelling in the back of your heels. Your heels may hurt, as well as your calves. The symptoms can be worse with or without movement, depending on the extent of the injuries.

Achilles tendon problems don't go away without treatment, so it's important that you seek podiatry care immediately.

What Steps Can You Take to Ease Your Pain?

A podiatrist, or foot specialist, will generally examine your calves and heels manually first. If a podiatrist finds visible signs of inflammation in your heels, they may take X-rays or use other diagnostic tools. X-rays can tell a foot specialist whether or not your Achilles tendons have some type of damage, such as tears and rips. These types of injuries generally require rest and medication to help them heal properly. Surgery may be used if the tendons experienced severe damage.

If the tendons physically pulled away from the heel bones or calf muscles, you may need surgery to reattach them. This type of treatment may require a longer rest period and healing time, so be sure to discuss your treatment options with a podiatrist immediately.

After your tendons heal, a podiatrist may prescribe therapeutic inserts or footwear to protect your tissues during exercise. Inserts help prevent unnecessary stress, tension, and movement in the tendons as they heal. The footwear may be specifically designed for your feet, which helps prevent injuries and inflammation in the future.

You can also take steps to keep your Achilles tendons safe during exercise. Avoid running uphill for long periods of time. It's a good idea to jog, lift weights, or perform other activities on even terrain. If possible, use shock-absorbent mats to support your feet, ankles, heels, and calves. 

If you experience additional pain or discomfort in your heels after treatment, contact a podiatrist for assistance. You can re-injure your Achilles tendons if you don't take precautions.

For more information about Achilles tendon injuries, schedule a visit with a podiatrist today.