The Achilles tendon runs down the back of the lower leg and connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. It raises the heel off the ground when you walk.
Two Achilles tendon disorders are common. Achilles tendonitis is an inflammation of the tendon, which usually doesn’t last long. But if it doesn’t go away, it can cause the tendon to break down. This is known as Achilles tendonitis.
Both disorders are caused by a sudden increase in activities that involve the Achilles tendon, like running. This puts too much stress on the tendon too quickly, which leads to small injuries of the tendon fibers.
Athletes are at high risk of developing these disorders. So are people with jobs that put a lot of stress on the ankles and feet, like construction workers. People with flat feet also have a tendency to develop Achilles tendonitis.
- Pain in the tendon, often after periods of rest or increased activity
- Tenderness or pain when the sides of the tendon are squeezed
- Swelling and nodules in the damaged area if the problem gets worse
A doctor will examine the area to check for tenderness, swelling and range of motion. Imaging tests, like X-rays, ultrasounds or an MRI, might also be done.
Treatment depends on when the injury happened and the degree of damage. In the early stages, one or more of the following may be used:
- Prescription shoe inserts (orthotics)
- Night splints to stretch the tendon while sleeping
- Physical therapy
If these don’t help, surgery may be necessary.