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Achilles Tendon Disorders

What Is the Achilles Tendon?

The Achilles tendon is a strong band of tissue connecting the muscles of the lower leg (calf) to the back of the heel bone.

What type of injuries are typically associated with this tendon and how are they caused?

Achilles tendonitis refers to a condition of irritation and inflammation of the tendon which is fairly common and relatively short- lived, with appropriate treatment. Achilles tendinosis, on the other hand, involves chronic Achilles swelling and pain due to likely degeneration and microscopic tears within the tendon itself.

Most Achilles tendon injuries are related to overuse, repetitive stress. Athletes and “weekend warriors” alike are susceptible, as are those who are more likely to stress their feet with long days at work. Individuals with flat feet (pronation) are also more likely to develop Achilles tendonitis due to the increased strain on the tendon due to their foot type.

Symptoms

Symptoms of Achilles tendonitis typically include swelling, pain, and inflammation at the back of the heel.

Diagnosis

A thorough foot examination is usually required to diagnose an Achilles tendon condition, with potential use of imaging studies such as X-ray, ultrasound, and MRI should they be necessary.

Treatment

Home treatments of Achilles tendonitis usually involves rest, icing, anti-inflammatory medication, appropriate shoe choices/padding of the back of the shoe. Further treatment, depending on the nature of the injury, may involve bracing, heel lifts, physical therapy, custom made foot orthotics, shoe and activity modification. Surgery is usually not necessary, unless there is longstanding pathology in the tendon itself unresponsive to conservative measures.