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Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis is a common overuse injury. You may feel pain or discomfort in the back of the ankle or calf, especially after physical activity or exercise. Treatment options vary from rest to physical therapy to other non-invasive therapies.

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What Is Achilles Tendonitis?

The largest tendon in the body, the Achilles tendon runs along the back of the leg from the calf to the heel. It moves your leg and foot when you walk or run. Overuse of this tendon will cause it to swell and ache. Obesity or flat feet can also contribute to the condition.

What Causes Achilles Tendonitis?

Achilles tendonitis is a common sports injury. People of all ages can get Achilles tendonitis. Some common causes include:

Exercising in cold weather or in hilly areas.

Inappropriate or worn shoes.

What Are Achilles Tendonitis Risk Factors and Complications?

Achilles tendonitis risk factors

Some common risk factors include:

  • Runners who increase the intensity of their workouts.
  • New runners, or those who have not adequately prepared.

Complications of Achilles tendonitis

In some cases of Achilles tendonitis, the tendon can tear, which may require surgery. Another complication may include a bone spur forming on the heel.

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What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis?

Strenuous activity involving the leg, including running, sprinting, or jumping, can cause Achilles tendonitis.

Some common signs of Achilles tendonitis may include:

  • Pain in the heel and along the tendon when walking, running or climbing stairs.
  • Stiffness.
  • Swelling.
  • Warmth in the tendon.
  • Trouble standing.

When to see a doctor for Achilles tendonitis

Symptoms may come on gradually during your activity. Sudden, extreme pain in the tendon, resulting in an inability to put weight on the foot, can indicate a rupture in the tendon. A ruptured tendon requires immediate medical attention and treatment.

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How Do You Diagnose Achilles Tendonitis?

Routine Achilles tendonitis diagnosis may involve the following tests:

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How Do You Treat Achilles Tendonitis?

Your doctor will develop a customized Achilles tendonitis treatment plan based on your case.

Non-surgical Achilles tendonitis remedies

Achilles tendonitis treatment includes:

  • Limiting physical activity involving the leg.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Physical therapy and strengthening exercises.
  • Orthotic devices in the shoes.

If you added intensity to your workouts, get back to your workout routine gradually and warm up properly to prevent recurrence of your injury. If pain persists for six months or more, and non-surgical treatments fail to alleviate symptoms, surgery may be required to repair the tendonitis.

Tendon surgery to fix Achilles tendonitis

Your doctor may recommend Achilles tendon surgery after non-surgical treatment options fail or when the tendon is ruptured.

During Achilles tendon surgery, your doctor will make an incision on the back of the leg and repair the tendon. This procedure sometimes includes using other tendons to reinforce the Achilles tendon.

What are the types of Achilles tendon surgery?

There are two types of Achilles tendon surgeries:

  • Open surgery - The surgeon makes one large incision in the back of the ankle.
  • Percutaneous surgery - The surgeon repairs the tendon from many small incisions around the ankle.

Recovery after Achilles tendonitis surgery

After Achilles tendon surgery, you can expect to be in a cast or walking boot for six to 12 weeks. Gradually, you may return to physical activity. Typically, a full recovery time after Achilles tendon surgery is about six months.

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