(Achilles Tendinitis; Achilles Tendinosis)
Tendinopathy is an injury to the tendon. It can cause pain, swelling, and limit movement. The injuries can include:
- Tendinitis—an inflammation of the tendon. (Although this term is used often, most cases of tendinopathy are not associated with significant inflammation.)
- Tendinosis—microtears (tiny breaks) in the tendon tissue with no significant inflammation.
The achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Tendinopathy and the associated pain may take months to resolve.
Tendinopathy is generally caused by overuse of a muscle-tendon unit. Over time, the strain on the tendon causes structural changes within the tendon itself.
Overuse of the achilles tendon is common when:
- Increasing your speed or running long distances too quickly
- Suddenly adding strenuous hills or stair climbing to your exercise routine
- Doing too much too soon after taking time away from exercising
- A sudden or violent contraction of the calf muscles, such as during an all-out sprint
- Running too much (overuse)
- Lack of flexibility of the calf muscles
Factors that increase your chance of achilles tendinopathy include:
- Improper or badly worn footwear
- Improper warm-up for your activity
- Inflexibility of the calf muscles
- Improper cool-down
- An improper training program
Symptoms may include:
- Tenderness—usually located one to two inches above the point where the tendon attaches to the heel bone (noticeable in the morning upon rising)
- Stiffness that gradually eases as the tendon is warmed-up
- Pain after activity that gradually worsens
- Radiating or localized pain along the tendon during and/or after running
- Swelling in the area of the achilles
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and exercise habits. A physical exam will be done.
Your doctor will likely make a diagnosis based on the exam and history. If the symptoms and signs are unclear your doctor may order:
Take a break from the activity that caused the tendinopathy. Switch to an activity that doesn't put stress on the tendon. Avoid uphill and irregular surfaces. Swimming is a good option.
Gradually increase your activity levels. Ice the area for 20 minutes if you have activity related pain.
You may be advised to wear a shoe insert. It will place your foot in the correct position for walking and running.
- Strengthening exercises, focused on the calf muscles
Some people may benefit from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs). They may be helpful in relieving the pain and decreasing inflammation. This is not curative. It must be combined with other treatment.
To decrease your chances of getting achilles tendonitis:
- Take the time to warm-up and cool-down properly.
- Wear appropriate footwear for your sport.
Do not use shoes beyond the recommended duration. This will depend on:
- How frequently you exercise
- The surface on which you exercise
- The conditions in which you exercise
- Gradually add hill work, stairs, speed, and distance to your routine.
- Stretch and strengthen the calf muscles regularly.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.aaos.org/.
Achilles tendinopathy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated June 2008. Accessed May 11, 2009.
Mayo Clinic Health Letter website. Available at: http://healthletter.mayoclinic.com/.
Last reviewed January 2009 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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