Pain in the Achilles Tendon

Achilles Tendonitis and Ruptures

Achilles tendonitis is when the Achilles tendon becomes inflamed. Your Achilles tendon stretches from your heel to your calf muscle. The tendonitis can also occur at the base of the tendon near the heel, which is called insertional Achilles tendonitis. This condition is generally not long lasting, but it can lead to deterioration of the tendon and eventually could cause microscopic tears to form. This is called Achilles tendonosis and it occurs when scar tissue forms after the body fails to heal the tendonitis. Some symptoms of these conditions include:

  • Pain (aching, stiffness, soreness, or tenderness) within the tendon.
  • Tenderness or sometimes intense pain when the sides of the tendon are squeezed.

Treatment Options for Achilles and insertional Achilles tendonitis, and tendonosis:

Immobilization – May involve the use of a cast or boot to reduce strain on the Achilles tendon.

Ice – Helps to reduce swelling due to inflammation.

Medications – Drugs such as ibuprofen can be used to help reduce inflammation and pain.

Physical therapy – May include different exercises and stretches to help strengthen the damaged tendon.

An Achilles tendon rupture is the complete or partial tear of the Achilles tendon. This is generally caused by forceful jumping, sudden accelerations from running, or even just falling or tripping where the tendon is stretched beyond its capacity. Some symptoms of an Achilles tendon rupture include:

  • Sudden pain in the back of the ankle or the calf
  • A popping or snapping feeling
  • Swelling in the back of the leg
  • Difficulty walking, especially up stairs or uphill and difficulty getting up on your toes

Treatment Options

It is very important to receive prompt medical attention if you notice these symptoms. Until you are able to see a doctor, you should use the “R.I.C.E.” method:

  • Rest – Stay off the injured foot/ankle to avoid any further damage to the tendon.
  • Ice – Icing the tendon can help to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Compression – Wrapping the foot/ankle in an elastic bandage can help prevent more swelling.
  • Elevate – Keep the leg elevated to reduce swelling.

Both non-surgical and surgical treatments may be used for Achilles tendon ruptures depending on the severity of the rupture.

Non-surgical treatment of the tendon generally has a higher rate of re-rupturing, so it is generally chosen in minor ruptures, for those who are less active, and those with medical conditions that prevent them from going through surgery. This treatment option involves using a cast, walking boot, or brace to restrict motion and allow the tendon to heal.

Surgery decreases the likelihood of re-rupturing the Achilles tendon and also often increases your push-off strength and improves muscle function and movement of the ankle.