Inflammation or Rupture of the Achilles Tendon

The Achilles tendon is the tough band of tissue that connects the calf muscles in the back of each leg to the heel bone. Along with the calf muscles, this tendon is why you can push off your toes to walk, run or jump. An injury to the Achilles tendon causes inflammation and pain that can make it difficult – even impossible – to be active.

There are two main types of Achilles tendon injuries:

  • Achilles tendinitis. This is inflammation of the Achilles tendon usually caused by overuse (repetitive trauma). You may develop this if you increase the intensity of an exercise or sport too quickly, don’t stretch your calf muscles properly after exercising, run on hard surfaces, don’t rest enough between runs, play a sport that requires you to jump a lot or don’t wear the right supportive footwear. Arthritis or a bone spur may also cause Achilles tendinitis.
  • Achilles tendon rupture. This is a partial or complete tear of the Achilles tendon that may be caused by a sudden injury or by untreated chronic tendinitis.

Achilles Tendon Injuries Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Signs and symptoms of Achilles tendinitis include swelling and pain in the heel and along the back of the ankle where the tendon runs. The area where the pain is may be sensitive to touch or movement, and you may not be able to stand up on your toes. The area may also be stiff in the morning.

If the pain is severe, it could mean the tendon has ruptured (torn). A popping sound may also happen when the tendon tears.

To diagnose Achilles tendinitis, your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask you questions about your symptoms. If he or she suspects the tendon is torn, an MRI scan may be done to plan treatment or see if surgery is needed.

Most cases of Achilles tendinitis improve with lifestyle changes, including limiting the activities that cause the pain and maintaining calf flexibility with regular stretching.

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Top-Ranked by U.S. News & World Report

Penn State Health includes the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, ranked as one of the best orthopedic providers in the country by U.S. News & World Report. This honor was earned because our doctors consistently deliver exceptional patient care and outcomes through their commitment to advanced treatments, translational research and provider training.

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Our orthopaedic specialists work together through our dedicated Penn State Bone and Joint Institute. There, they focus on providing you with multidisciplinary, tailored care and state-of-the-art treatments and technologies. This produces the highest-quality patient outcomes. All physicians at the institute are fellowship-trained and subspecialize in additional niche areas of orthopaedics, including arthritis care and joint arthroplasty (joint replacement surgery).

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Penn State Bone and Joint Institute is a Blue Distinction Center for Knee and Hip Replacement. This superior designation from BlueCross BlueShield is only given to health care facilities and providers that stand out for their expertise in delivering specialty knee and hip replacement care. Our surgeons specialize in a range of pain-relieving procedures, including partial knee replacement, total joint arthroplasty, joint preservation surgery and complex revision surgery. They perform more than 1,000 joint replacement procedures every year.

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We developed a special joint replacement education website just for patients undergoing joint arthroplasty. The website takes you step by step through the joint replacement process. From things to consider before choosing surgery to recovery after surgery, you’ll find the information you need to help you feel confident in your decision to undergo joint replacement.

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The doctors and researchers in our Center for Orthopaedic Research and Translational Science at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center are committed to advancing our field through scientific discovery and education. As the only academic medical center in central Pennsylvania, Hershey Medical Center is a national leader in research, in partnership with Penn State College of Medicine, and on the leading edge of new treatment options, including clinical trials.

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