The Achilles tendon is a large tendon that extends from the bottom of your CALF muscle or gastrocnemius and the smaller soleus muscles to the heel bone. Achilles tendonitis or tendinopathy is a common injury in those who play sports. Any base medical word with "itis" attached to the end means "inflammation of" - hence Achilles tendonitis is inflammation of the Achilles tendon.
In most cases, Achilles tendonitis is caused by overuse of the calf muscles, especially in sports like rock climbing, basketball and/or following intense periods of exercise. More serious Achilles tendon injuries may result in tearing or separation of the tendon from the muscle or bone to which it connects.
- Aching pain along the bottom of the calf muscle or in the heel
- Pain when walking, jumping, climbing stairs or running
- Extreme stiffness and pain after periods of inactivity or sleep
- Mild swelling in the vicinity of the inflammation
- Weakened lower leg muscles that affect standing or walking
- Your doctor will perform a variety of tests to identify the location and offer treatment for inflammation of the Achilles tendon, including:
- Physical exam and palpation of the injured area
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
- RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) is the first step toward home-based treatment of an inflamed Achilles tendon. Other treatment plans may include:
- Anti-inflammatory medications such as Aleve, Motrin or Advil
- Gradual stretching, range of motion and low-impact exercise
- If severe, your doctor may suggests an orthotic device like a shoe wedge or insert to elevate the heel to relieve stress or strain on the Achilles tendon
In the event of a severely inflamed or torn Achilles tendon, your doctor may suggest surgery in order to repair the tissues, as well as increase tendon function. Surgery is only considered if other treatments have been tried and after inflammation has disappeared.