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Definition

What are Achilles tendon problems?

The Achilles tendon is a part of your body that enables to connect the calf muscle to the heel bone. It allows to you rise up on your toes and push off when you walk or run.

The two main problems of Achilles tendon are:

Achilles tendinopathy

This refers to tiny tears (microtears) in the tissue in and around the tendon. These tears are caused by overuse. Achilles tendinopathy is also often called Achilles tendinitis.

Achilles tendon tear or rupture

An Achilles tendon also can partially tear or completely tear (rupture). A partial tear may cause mild or no symptoms. But a complete rupture causes pain and sudden loss of strength and movement.

Problems with the Achilles tendon may seem to happen suddenly. But usually they are the result of many tiny tears in the tendon that have happened over time.

How common are Achilles tendon problems?

Achilles tendinopathy is commonly to happen in men older than 30. Most Achilles tendon ruptures occur in people 30 to 50 years old who are recreational athletes. Ruptures can also happen in older adults. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of Achilles tendon problems?

Signs and symptoms of Achilles tendinopathy may include:

  • Pain in the back of the heel, in the Achilles tendon area. Pain may be mild or severe. Swelling may occur.
  • Tenderness in the Achilles tendon area. Tenderness may be more noticeable in the morning.
  • Stiffness that goes away as the tendon warms up with use.
  • Decreased strength and movement, or a feeling of sluggishness in the leg.

Signs and symptoms of an Achilles tendon rupture may include:

  • A sudden, sharp pain that feels like a direct hit to the Achilles tendon. There may be a pop when the rupture occurs. This may be followed by swelling and bruising.
  • Heel pain. (It may be severe.)
  • Not being able to go on tiptoe with the hurt leg.

 

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes Achilles tendon problems?

Achilles tendinopathy is most often caused by overuse or repeated movements during sports, work, or other activities.

Achilles tendon rupture is most often caused by a sudden, forceful motion that stresses the calf muscle. This can happen during an intense athletic activity or even during simple running or jumping.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for Achilles tendon problems?

There are many risk factors for Achilles tendon problems, such as:

 

Sports and physical activity

Overuse and repeated movements can cause injury and weaken the Achilles tendon. Playing sports increases the risk of an injury. Activities at work (such as in construction) and at home (such as gardening) may also increase your risk.

Sports training errors

Not warming up before running or other activities or suddenly changing your training program can increase your risk for injury.

Age

As you age, the blood supply to the Achilles tendon area decreases. Most cases of Achilles tendinopathy or rupture occur in people older than 30.

Weight

If you are very heavy, you have a greater risk.

Being male

Men are more likely than women to have an Achilles tendon injury.

Footwear

You may increase your risk if you wear shoes that are worn out, that do not support your feet, or that do not cushion your heel.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How are Achilles tendon problems diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you experience Achilles tendon problems, he/she will perform an exam thoroughly to determine this condition.

Other tests may be done to clarify a diagnosis or to prepare for surgery. These tests include:

Ultrasound

It may be used to check whether there is a rupture of the tendon or signs of tendinopathy.

X-rays

It may help check the heel bone.

MRI scan

This can check the tendon for signs of tendinopathy or a tendon rupture. An MRI is also used to evaluate the heel bone.

How are Achilles tendon problems treated?

Treatment for mild Achilles tendon problems includes rest, over-the-counter pain medicine, and stretching exercises. You may need to wear well-cushioned shoes and change the way you play sports so that you reduce stress on the tendon. Early treatment works best and can prevent more injury. Orthotic shoe devices can also help reduce stress on the tendon.

Even in mild cases, it can take weeks to months of rest for the tendon to repair itself. It’s important to be patient and not return too soon to sports and activities that stress the tendon.

Treatment for severe problems, such as a torn or ruptured tendon, may include surgery or a cast, splint, brace, walking boot, or other device that keeps the lower leg and ankle from moving. Exercise, either in physical therapy or in a rehab program, can help the lower leg and ankle get strong and flexible again. The tendon will take weeks to months to heal.

Although treatment for Achilles tendon problems takes time, it usually works. Most people can return to sports and other activities.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Achilles tendon problems?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Achilles tendon problems:

Warm up and stretch

Before any sport or intense activity, gradually warm up your body by doing 5 to 10 minutes of walking or biking, and then do stretching exercises.

Cool down and do more stretching

After intense activity, gradually cool down with about 5 minutes of easy jogging, walking, or biking, and 5 minutes of stretches.

Avoid any sport or intense activity that you are not in condition to do

Wear shoes that cushion your heel during sports or any strenuous activity.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

 

Sources

Review Date: August 3, 2017 | Last Modified: August 3, 2017

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