What is Achilles Tendinitis?

Achilles tendinitis is an inflammation (swelling) of the tendon, which usually occurs as a result of overuse injury. Anyone can have Achilles tendonitis. Athletics involving frequent jumping is the classic cause, but certainly not the only one. Any activity requiring a constant pushing off the foot, such as running or dancing, may result in swelling of the tendon.

Symptoms and Treatment for Achilles Tendinitis

People with Achilles tendinitis may experience pain during and after exercising. Running and jumping activities become painful and difficult. Symptoms include stiffness and pain in the back of the ankle when pushing off the ball of the foot. For patients with chronic tendinitis (longer than six weeks), x-rays may reveal calcification (hardening of the tissue) in the tendon. Chronic tendinitis can result in a breakdown of the tendon, or tendinosis, which weakens the tendon and may cause a rupture. The recommended treatment for Achilles tendinitis consists of icing, gentle stretching, and modifying or limiting activity. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naprosyn, can reduce pain and swelling. Physical therapy and the use of an orthosis (heel lift) can also be helpful. For chronic cases where tendinosis is evident and other methods of treatment have failed, surgery may be recommended to remove and repair the damaged tissue.

What is an Achilles Tendon Tear or Rupture?

Achilles tendon rupture is a severe and disabling injury. A rupture usually takes place a couple of inches above the joining of the tendon and the heel bone. This typically occurs when someone contracts, or tightens, the calf muscle and suddenly pushes off the foot, such as in basketball or racquet sports. The injured person experiences pain, swelling, and an inability to stand on their tiptoes. The person may feel as if they were “kicked in the back of the heel.”

Symptoms and Treatments for an Achilles Tendon Rupture

Achilles tendon ruptures occur most commonly in middle aged patients as a result of overused or unused muscles. An injured person experiences extreme difficulty with pushing off the foot and even walking. Among other things, physical exam reveals swelling, a gap in the tendon, and a decrease in “resting tension” in the tendon. Imaging with x-rays and an MRI are often obtained to confirm the diagnosis and look for other injuries.

Treatment of Achilles Tendon Rupture

Achilles ruptures may be treated surgically or nonsurgically. This decision can be made by the patient under the guidance of an orthopaedic surgeon. Regardless, a period of immobilization is required to allow the tendon to fully heal. If the repair allows, early motion has been shown to result in improved range of motion, strength, and earlier return to athletics. At Texas Sports Medicine, we deal commonly with athletes and their injuries. Our goal is to return the athlete to the playing field as quickly as possible while never compromising safety and overall well being.