Author: Niki L. Carayannopoulos, DO
Achilles tendinitis is inflammation of the Achilles tendon, the body’s largest tendon, which connects the calf muscle to the heel. This is a fairly common injury, especially in young people who might put too many demands on their bodies (a primary cause of this overuse injury).
For example, did you know that suddenly increasing the distance you run on a daily basis may lead to Achilles tendinitis?
Do I have Achilles tendinitis?
It’s important to state up front that only a health care professional can diagnose Achilles tendinitis. Diagnosis will require an examination and possibly some tests (described below). That being said, Achilles tendinitis often produces some very distinct symptoms, including:
- Unresolved swelling of the area.
- Pain and stiffness in the area of the tendon (especially early in the day).
- Pain that worsens when you are active; certain activities, such as running or going up stairs, could make the pain worse.
- Noticeable thickening of the tendon.
- Bone spurs in the area where the tendon attaches to the heel bone.
What causes Achilles tendinitis?
Achilles tendinitis is usually caused by repetitive stress. In some cases, a bone spur, which irritates the tendon at the insertion point, could be the cause of a patient’s Achilles tendinitis. Also, some people develop this condition from exercising with tight calf muscles.
A less common cause of Achilles tendinitis is related to the use of certain drugs, particularly a class of drugs called “Statins,” which may be prescribed by your primary care doctor or cardiologist to treat high cholesterol. If you develop tendinitis in one or more areas as a result of starting a new prescription drug, please call your primary doctor since the drug might need to be discontinued to prevent a tendon rupture.
How is Achilles tendinitis diagnosed?
Achilles tendinitis may be diagnosed during an appointment with your Houston orthopedic physician. During your appointment, your doctor may ask about your symptoms and perform a physical examination as well as a range of motion test. The physician will look for swelling and thickening of the tendon, among other things.
A diagnostic imaging test may be ordered to confirm that the observed symptoms are caused by Achilles tendinitis and not another condition. An x-ray or MRI could be used to observe the Achilles tendon and/or heel. (Learn more about these tests.)
What can I do for Achilles tendinitis?
Achilles tendinitis may resolve on its own through conservative at-home therapies, such as rest and ice. Taking an NSAID, such as ibuprofen, could also help reduce pain and swelling. Your Houston orthopedic physician may refer you to a physical therapist or provide you with some information about exercises you can do at home to manage your symptoms. Additionally, some patients find relief through orthotics and other therapies. This condition should not be neglected since it can eventually lead to rupture of the tendon, particularly if it is recurrent.
What other treatment options do I have?
Some patients may find their Achilles tendinitis improves with injections or surgery. Generally, surgery is not recommended until conservative therapies have been attempted for several months.
Schedule With a Houston Orthopedic Physician
To learn more about Achilles tendinitis and your treatment options, schedule an appointment with a Houston orthopedic doctor by contacting Houston Institute for Sports Medicine & Orthopedics. Call (713) 756-5546 or schedule online.
Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.