The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body. It is a fibrous connective tissue that links the muscles in your calf to your heel. Your Achilles tendon bears a significant amount of stress and pressure from everyday activities, especially during athletic or recreational sports. An Achilles tendon injury usually results from inflammation of the surrounding sheath, degeneration of the tendon, or a combination of both.
At Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic, our orthopaedic experts have extensive experience diagnosing and treating Achilles tendonitis and other orthopaedic conditions and injuries so you can live your healthiest and most comfortable life.
Causes of Achilles Tendonitis
Tendonitis can occur due to overuse or damage to the area, which causes pain down the back of your leg and around your heel. The tendon is used when you walk, run, jump, or push off your toes. Runners who have suddenly increased the intensity or duration of their runs are highly susceptible to tendonitis. There are two main types of this condition which affect different parts of your tendon.
- Noninsertional Achilles tendonitis: The middle fibers in your tendon start to break down, swell, and thicken
- Insertional Achilles tendonitis: Damage occurs where your tendon meets your heel bone, often forming bone spurs
Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis
The pain associated with Achilles tendonitis begins as a mild ache in the back of or above your heel. Other common symptoms of an Achilles tendon injury may include:
- A stiff, sore Achilles tendon when you first get up
- Thickening of your tendon
- Bone spurs on the heel bone
- Difficulty flexing the affected foot
- A popping sound and sudden sharp pain, which can mean a ruptured tendon
How is Achilles Tendonitis Diagnosed and Treated?
Sometimes Achilles tendonitis can be misdiagnosed as a sprained ankle. Your doctor will likely perform a physical exam to check for symptoms of tendonitis, including a test for range of motion. They may also utilize imaging tests such as an X-ray or MRI, which can determine if the tendon has become calcified or hardened, as well as identify the presence of bone spurs.
Treatment for Achilles tendonitis is highly dependent on the severity of your individual condition. In minor to moderate cases, the tendon should heal on its own over time. To speed up the process, you can:
- Use the RICE method
- Take anti-inflammatory drugs
- Use a heel lift
- Practice stretching and strengthening exercises
For more serious cases of Achilles tendonitis, our urgent care clinics at Raleigh Orthopaedic accept walk-ins and provide prompt treatment for patients with a variety of urgent orthopedic injuries.
Achilles Tendonitis Recovery Process
The recovery process is different for each individual – the condition typically resolves after a few days of proper treatment. If you continue to put pressure on the tendon or neglect to adjust your exercise habits, your recovery time will likely increase. A tendon rupture or chronic tendonitis can worsen the issue and may require long-term rehabilitation or surgery. Our team of specialists will help you determine the best treatment plan based on your unique circumstances.
Surgical Treatment for Achilles Tendonitis
If your Achilles tendon injury worsens or is left untreated, your doctor may recommend surgical intervention. Surgery should only be considered if the pain persists after six months of nonsurgical treatment. The specific type of surgery chosen will depend on the location of the tendonitis and the amount of damage present.
Expert Orthopedic Care at Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic
Your well-being is important to us. Raleigh Orthopaedic is Wake County’s oldest and most experienced orthopedic practice, serving the Triangle and surrounding regions of central North Carolina since 1919. Raleigh Orthopaedic offers online scheduling so click the button below or call us at (919) 781-5600 to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. If your injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our Raleigh Orthopaedic Urgent Care locations for immediate care. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is needed to see one of our physical therapists.