Is Achilles Tendonitis?
The Achilles tendon attaches your calf muscles to your heel bone,
or calcaneus. You use this tendon to jump, walk, run, and stand on the balls of
your feet. Continuous, intense physical activity, like running and jumping, can
cause painful inflammation of the Achilles tendon. This is known as Achilles
tendonitis (or tendinitis).
You can often treat Achilles tendonitis at home using simple
strategies. However, if home treatment doesn’t work, it’s important to see a
doctor. If your tendonitis gets worse, your tendon can tear. You may need
medication or surgery to ease the pain.
of Achilles Tendonitis
Excessive exercise or walking is a common cause of Achilles
tendonitis. This is particularly true for athletes. However, factors unrelated
to exercise may also contribute to risk. Rheumatoid arthritis and infection are
both correlated with tendonitis.
In general, any repeated activity that strains the Achilles
tendon can contribute to this problem. A few possible causes are:
- exercising without a proper warm-up
- straining the calf muscles during repeated
exercise or physical activity
- playing sports such as tennis that require quick
stops and changes of direction
- wearing old or poorly-fitting shoes
- wearing high heels daily or for prolonged
of Achilles Tendonitis
The main symptom of Achilles tendonitis is a feeling of pain and
swelling in the posterior part of your heel as you walk or run. Other symptoms
include tight calf muscles and limited range of motion when you flex your foot.
This condition can also make the skin on your heel feel overly warm to the
To diagnose the condition correctly, your doctor will ask you a
few questions about the pain and swelling in your heel or calf. Your doctor may ask you
to stand on the balls of your feet while they observe your range of motion and
flexibility. The doctor will also palpate the area directly to pinpoint where
the pain and swelling are most severe.
Confirming Achilles tendonitis may involve imaging tests, but
they’re often unnecessary. If ordered, the tests include:
which can provide images of the bones of the foot and leg
scan, which are useful for detecting ruptures and the degeneration of
which can show tendon movement, related damage, and inflammation
There’s a variety of treatments available for Achilles
tendonitis. These range from rest and ibuprofen (Advil) to steroid injections
and surgery. Your doctor might suggest:
- reducing your physical activity
- very gentle stretching and later strengthening of the calf muscles
- switching to a different, less strenuous sport
- icing the area after exercise or when in pain
- elevating your foot to decrease swelling, if present
- wearing a brace or boot to prevent heel movement
- going to physical therapy
- taking anti-inflammatory medication, such as
aspirin or ibuprofen, for a limited time
- getting steroid injections
- wearing a shoe with a built up heel to take tension off the Achilles tendon
Sometimes, more conservative treatments are not effective. In
these cases, surgery may be necessary to repair the Achilles tendon. If the
condition intensifies and is left untreated, there’s a greater risk of an
Achilles rupture, which requires a surgical intervention. This can cause sharp
pain in the heel area.
To lower your risk of Achilles tendonitis, try the following strategies:
- Stretch your calf muscles at the beginning of
each day to improve your agility and make your Achilles less prone to injury.
You should also try to stretch both before and after workouts. To stretch your
Achilles, stand with a straight leg, and lean forward as you keep your heel on
- Ease into a new exercise routine, gradually
intensifying your physical activity.
- Combine high- and low-impact exercises, such as
basketball with swimming, to reduce constant stress on your tendons.
- Choose shoes with proper cushioning and arch
support. Also make certain the heel is slightly elevated to take tension off the Achilles tendon. If you’ve worn a pair of shoes for a long time, consider replacing
them or using arch supports.
- Reduce the heel size of shoes gradually when
transitioning from high heels to flats. This allows the tendon to slowly
stretch and increase its range of motion.