Achilles tendonitis is the inflammation of Achilles tendon. Achilles tendon is considered the strongest tendon in the body, which connects the back of the leg to the heel bone. Achilles tendonitis is a common injury, which tends to occur in middle-age recreational athletes (weekend warriors). Overuse of Achilles tendon causes inflammation, which leads to pain and swelling, which at times it can be debilitating. It should not be confused with Achilles tendinosis, which is the result of chronic inflammation, scarring and microscopic degenerative changes (tears) within the tendon substance. Usually, Achilles tendonitis is divided into 2 categories:
Insertional Achilles tendonitis: Where the Achilles tendon inserts into the back of the heel becomes inflamed and usually is associated with a bump / swelling to the back of the heel. Usually, bone spur can develop to the back of the heel.
Noninsertioanl Achilles tendonitis: Mid-portion of the tendon becomes inflamed and is tender on palpation. If chronic (Achilles tendinosis) a palpable lump may be noted on palpation
Causes of Achilles Tendonitis:
- Tightness of Achilles tendon (Equinus)
- Flat Foot / Overpronation (Pes Planus)
- High arch foot (Pes Cavus)
- Shoe gear irritation
- Not stretching before sports activity
- Direct trauma
- Some medications such as Fluoroquinolones are know to cause Achilles tendon pathology.
Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis:
- Pain to the back of the heel with ambulation, especially after sitting for a period of time. Usually, the first few steps out of the bed in the morning may be painful.
- Pain / soreness on palpation of Achilles tendon (usually 2-4 cm above where the tendon attaches to the back of the heel. This area is called the “watershed” portion of Achilles tendon and is know to have poor blood supply and is particularly susceptible to inflammation, scarring and possible rupture)
- Pain to the back of the heel or to Achilles tendon with range of motion of the ankle joint (Dorsiflexion / Plantarflexion)
- Pain with pushing off or jumping during exercise.
- Pain to Achilles tendon going up stairs / hills
Imaging for Achilles Tendonitis:
- X-ray: Usually does not show anything unless there is a bone spur to the back of the heel
- MRI: May be needed to evaluate for a possible tear within the tendon. A MRI may also be helpful for preoperative planning.
Conservative Treatment Achilles Tendonitis:
(Depending on the length of your symptoms, it can take between 3-6 months for treatment to take affect)
- Immobilization – allow the tendon to heal itself. (Walking boot for 6 weeks. Prolong use of walking boot can lead to weakening of the calf muscle)
- Stretching exercises targeting Achilles tendon (Click here)
- Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID)
- Heel lifts – to decrease tension on achilles tendon and allowing it to heal
- Night splint – to stretch the Achilles tendon
- Orthotics / Inserts – to correct
- Supportive shoes
- Physical Therapy (tends to work better for noninsertional Achilles tendonitis)
***Cortisone injection is not recommended for Achilles tendonitis, as it can weaken the tendon, leading to Achilles tendon tear / rupture.
Surgical Treatment Achilles Tendonitis:
Surgical intervention is recommended only if patient has failed conservative treatment options. The specific type of surgical intervention depends on the location of tendonitis and the amount of damage to the tendon.
We encourage you to consult with foot and ankle specialist for a complete assessment of your condition.
Dr. Jones Hormozi at Valley Foot & Ankle Center (VFAC) utilizes state-of-the-art technology, minimally invasive procedures, and advanced techniques to prevent and treat all conditions of the foot and ankle. This allows most patients to walk immediately after most procedures, and they are able to rapidly return to high levels of functioning with excellent outcomes.