Achilles Tendonitis

Comprehensive Musculoskeletal Care & Foot and Ankle Surgeons located in Scottsdale, AZ and servicing the greater Phoenix area
Achilles Tendonitis}

Achilles Tendonitis services offered in Scottsdale, AZ

Achilles Tendonitis is caused by swelling or inflammation of the achilles tendon which inserts on the back of your heel. David Larson, DPM, a fellowship-trained foot and ankle surgeon, specializes in diagnosing and treating Achilles Tendonitis.  After an exam, Dr. Larson can determine your risk and make treatment recommendations. To make an appointment, call the office in Mesa or Phoenix, Arizona, or request an appointment today.

Achilles Tendonitis Q&A

What is Achilles Tendonitis? 

The Achilles tendon is used for various physical activities such as walking, running, sprinting and jumping. It is the largest tendon in the body. Achilles tendonitis is a common condition that occurs when the large tendon that runs from the calf to the heel bone becomes irritated and inflamed. The Achilles tendon can withstand great stress. However, due to overuse and degeneration, it is particularly prone to develop inflammation, resulting in Achilles tendon pain. In addition, athletes, such as long-distance runners and sprinters, are at increased risk for Achilles tendinitis and even an Achilles rupture. 

The two types of Achilles tendonitis:

  • Midsubstance or NonInsertional Achilles Tendonitis – Occurs in the middle portion of the tendon
  • Insertional Achilles Tendonitis – Occurs where the large tendon connects to the heel bone

What are the Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis?

Common symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis may include:

  • Pain – Aching, stiffness, or soreness within the Achilles tendon. The pain may occur anywhere from the calf to the heel. Pain is likely to worsen with exercise or feel worse in the morning.
  • Tenderness – This can be moderate to potentially severe pain when the two sides of the tendon are squeezed versus directly touched.
  • Bone Spur (insertional tendonitis) – Nodule(s) behind the damaged tissue may form when the disorder progresses to degeneration.
  • Tendon Thickening – A noticeable thickening of the Achilles tendon.

What Causes Achilles Tendonitis?

Achilles tendonitis is generally not caused by a specific injury. Repetitive stress on the Achilles tendon is most often the cause. Repetitive stress happens when a person pushes in an exercise or sport too much within a short amount of time, commonly known as an “overuse injury.” This puts too much stress too fast on the Achilles tendon. 

Other risk factors that may cause Achilles tendinitis to develop, include: 

  • Bone growth or spur – Extra bone growth where the tendon attaches to the heel, which can rub against the tendon and cause pain.
  • Tight calf muscle(s) – Having tight calf muscles to begin with and abruptly starting an aggressive exercise program.

How is Achilles Tendinitis Treated? 

Fortunately, there are several non-surgical treatment options for Achilles tendonitis:

  • Immobilization – May include the use of a cast or removable brace that will help with healing.
  • Ice – Applying ice for 20 minutes on and off may help to reduce the inflammation and swelling of the Achilles tendon.
  • Medications – Oral medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) are useful in reducing swelling and inflammation. 
  • Shoe Orthotics or Inserts – These may be helpful, especially for those who suffer from overpronation of the foot. This is caused by gait abnormalities or uneven body weight distribution pressing down on the foot.
  • Night Splints – These may be used at night to maintain a stretch in the Achilles tendon during sleep, helping to decrease the common morning pain associated with Achilles tendonitis.
  • Physical Therapy (PT) – Stretches and exercises focused on rehabilitation of the Achilles tendon.

What are the Surgical Options for Achilles Tendonitis & Achilles Rupture?

Surgery to repair the tendon may be considered when non-surgical treatment options have been exhausted. The surgery needed to repair Achilles tendonitis, or an Achilles rupture will depend on the extent of the injury, as well as the person’s age, activity level and recovery goals.

Surgery and Immobilization for Achilles Rupture

When the Achilles ruptures, surgery is typically needed to repair the ruptured tendon. Immobilization is also a common treatment option, where a cast, splint, brace, walking boot, or other device keeps the lower leg and ankle from moving. This allows for the ends of the Achilles tendon to reattach and heal. While surgery and immobilization are often very successful options for a ruptured Achilles, another rupture is less likely after surgery versus immobilization. 

Surgery for Midsubstance or Noninsertional Achilles Tendonitis

For midsubstance or noninsertional Achilles tendonitis, surgery is focused on removing the bad portion of the tendon. If the tendon is damaged, the surgeon will often use the tendon that goes to the big toe to support the Achilles tendon. If the Achilles tendon or calf muscles are too tight, surgery may also focus on lengthening them.

Surgery for Insertional Achilles Tendonitis

Surgery for insertional Achilles tendonitis involves removing the diseased tissue. The tendon is then repaired back down to the heel bone. The surgeon may shave down the bone spur and smooth it out. This prevents the bone spur from rubbing the Achilles tendon and irritating it. Often a fluid-filled sac called a “bursa” is a contributing factor to pain and inflammation. In these cases, the bursa is removed during surgery.

To learn more about Achilles tendonitis, make an appointment at the practice of David Larson, DPM, today. Call the nearest office to speak with a staff member or request an appointment online.

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