The Achilles tendon, or heel cord, is a band of tissue that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone.

Achilles tendonitis is an overuse problem, where the Achilles tendon becomes irritated and inflamed. This is usually short-lived.  If the condition is ongoing for a long time, it can lead to Achilles tendonosis and structural changes within the tendon itself.

Symptoms:

  • Pain, soreness, and aching in the back of the heel, or along the tendon course above the heel and below the calf muscle. This is usually worst in the morning, after resting, or with prolonged activity.
  • Tenderness or pain when the tendon is squeezed.
  • Over time, the tendon can become thick or lumpy.

Diagnosis:

Your foot and ankle surgeon will ask you about your medical history and examine your foot and ankle. He or she may order an x-ray or other imaging study to further assess the extent of the condition.

Do I need surgery?

If your symptoms have been going on for an extended period of time and non-surgical treatments aren’t working, surgery may be needed.  Your foot and ankle surgeon will discuss with you the best procedure to repair the tendon.

Treatment:

The course of treatment depends on how long your symptoms have been present. Early on, your podiatrist may recommend some of the following:

-Immobilization: You may be given an immobilization boot or a cast to allow your tendon to rest and promote healing. Decreasing activities that make your symptoms flare up is also recommended.

-Heel lifts: A small wedge underneath your heel can temporarily decrease the stress on your tendon.

-Ice: Apply ice to the affected area for 15 minutes several times a day.

-Medications: Oral NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen can be helpful to reduce pain and swelling.

-Orthotics:  Custom shoe inserts can improve your alignment and take stress off your Achilles tendon.

-Physical therapy: This may involve stretching and strengthening exercises, ultrasound therapy, soft-tissue massage, and gait training.