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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