What is the Achilles tendon?
Achilles tendon connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. It lets you rise up on
your toes and push off when you walk or run.
What are common Achilles tendon problems?
two main problems are:
- Achilles tendinopathy. This includes one of two conditions:
- Tendinitis. This actually means "inflammation of the tendon." But inflammation is
rarely the cause of tendon pain.
- Tendinosis. This refers to tiny
tears (microtears) in the tissue in and around the tendon. These tears are caused by overuse. In
most cases, Achilles tendon pain is the result of tendinosis, not tendinitis.
Some experts now use the term tendinopathy to include both inflammation and
microtears. But many doctors may still use the term tendinitis to describe a
- Achilles tendon tear or rupture. An Achilles tendon also can partially tear or
completely tear (rupture) . A partial tear may cause mild or no symptoms. But a
complete rupture causes pain and sudden loss of strength and movement.
Problems with the Achilles tendon may seem to happen
suddenly. But usually they are the result of many tiny tears in the tendon that
have happened over time.
Achilles tendinopathy is likely to occur in men older than 30. Most Achilles tendon ruptures occur in people 30 to 50 years old who are recreational athletes ("weekend warriors"). Ruptures can also happen in older adults.
What causes Achilles tendon problems?
Achilles tendinopathy is most often caused by overuse or repeated movements during sports, work, or other activities. For example, if
you do a lot of pushing off or stop-and-go motions when you play sports, you
can get microtears in the tendon.
Achilles tendon rupture is most often caused by a sudden, forceful motion that stresses the calf muscle. This
can happen during an intense athletic activity or even during simple running or
jumping. Middle-aged adults are especially likely to get this kind of
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of Achilles tendinopathy include swelling in the ankle area and mild or severe pain. The pain
may come on gradually or may only occur when you walk or run. You may have less
strength and range of movement in the ankle.
Symptoms of an Achilles tendon rupture may include a sudden, sharp pain. Most people feel or hear a pop
at the same time. Swelling and bruising may occur. You may not be able to
point your foot down or stand on your toes.
How are Achilles tendon problems diagnosed?
doctor can tell if you have an Achilles tendon problem by asking questions
about your past health and checking the back of your leg for pain and swelling.
If your symptoms are
severe or don't improve with treatment, your doctor may want you to get an
ultrasound scan, or
How are they treated?
Treatment for mild Achilles
tendon problems includes rest,
over-the-counter pain medicine, and stretching
exercises. You may need to wear well-cushioned shoes and change the way you
play sports so that you reduce stress on the tendon. Early treatment works best
and can prevent more injury. Orthotic shoe devices can also help reduce stress on the tendon.
Even in mild cases, it can take weeks
to months of rest for the tendon to repair itself. It's important to be patient
and not return too soon to sports and activities that stress the tendon.
Treatment for severe problems, such as a torn or ruptured tendon, may
include surgery or a cast, splint, brace, walking boot, or other device that
keeps the lower leg from moving. Exercise, either in physical therapy or in a
rehab program, can help the lower leg get strong and flexible again. The tendon
will take weeks to months to heal.
Although treatment for Achilles
tendon problems takes time, it usually works. Most people can return to sports
and other activities.
Frequently Asked Questions