What is the Achilles Tendon?
One of the most common causes is due to injury of the Achilles tendon or injury to structures around the Achilles tendon. A tendon is a structure that attaches a muscle to bone. The Achilles tendon attaches the calf muscles to the back of the heel bone, known as the calcaneus. It is also possible to have a bony deformity of the calcaneus called a Haglund’s deformity, which can rub on the Achilles tendon and irritate it. Near the attachment of the Achilles tendon to the calcaneus, there is a fluid-filled sac called a bursa, which can be particularly painful when inflamed. Sometimes, it is possible to have all three of these problems occurring at the same time.
What Are The Common Causes Of Achilles Tendon Injury?
Achilles tendonitis is usually due to repetitive injury that leads to irritation and pain of the tendon. If this persists, this can lead to chronic changes in the tendon called tendinopathy. Different things can contribute to repetitive injuries such as tight-fitting shoes, being flat-footed, having particularly high arches, tight calves, or a marked increase in activities such as walking, running, or hiking. Achilles tendon issues have even been associated with certain yoga poses. You can also develop tears in the Achilles tendon, which can be related to long-standing Achilles tendinopathy or a traumatic injury.
What Should I Do if I Suspect I Have a Traumatic Injury to My Achilles?
If you have pain, swelling, and/or bruising that develops after a sensation of popping during physical activity, this could be a sign of a traumatic Achilles rupture and needs to be evaluated within several days. This type of injury often requires surgery and outcomes are better the sooner appropriate treatment is provided.
What Are the Symptoms of an Achilles Tendon Injury?
Someone with an Achilles tendon injury may notice tenderness to touch the tendon, stiffness with the first few steps of activity, pain that increases with activity, and swelling of the tendon. Symptoms of a traumatic Achilles tear may include a painful pop followed by swelling, bruising, and difficulty with weight-bearing and walking.
What Are Some Things I Can Try at Home to Help with This Issue?
Some people find relief with a change to less tight-fitting shoe wear, such as a comfortable pair of tennis shoes, gentle calf stretching, ice, rest, and short-term NSAIDs for acute Achilles tendonitis. Long-term use of NSAIDs for chronic Achilles tendinopathy may delay or inhibit healing and is not recommended. The sooner these treatments are started, the better. If your symptoms don’t improve, you should seek evaluation by a physician.
What Are Additional Treatments a Physician Might Offer?
It is important to make sure that the correct problem is being treated. A doctor might order x-rays and perform an ultrasound to help diagnose the main cause of your pain. This may or may not involve the Achilles tendon. Occasionally, they may order an MRI if they suspect a tear that cannot be seen on ultrasound. Once a diagnosis is established, they may discuss additional treatment options such as topical mediations, physical therapy to learn specific exercises for the tendon, and rarely certain types of injections. Most Achilles tendon issues can be treated without surgery, but if conservative treatment doesn’t work or there is a traumatic rupture of the tendon, surgery may be recommended.
To set up an appointment for further evaluation, please call (208) 336-8250.