Achilles tendonitis is inflammation, irritation, and swelling of the Achilles tendon (the tendon that connects the muscles of the calf to the heel).
There are two large muscles in the calf, the gastrocnemius, and soleus. These muscles generate the power for pushing off with the foot or going up on the toes. The large Achilles tendon connects these muscles to the heel.
These are important muscles for walking. This tendon can become inflamed, most commonly as a result of overuse or arthritis, although inflammation can also be associated with trauma and infection.
Tendonitis due to overuse is most common in younger individuals and can occur in walkers, runners, or other athletes, especially in sports like basketball that involve jumping. Jumping places a large amount of stress on the Achilles tendon.
Tendonitis from arthritis is more common in the middle aged and elderly population.
Symptoms usually include pain in the heel when walking or running. The tendon is usually painful to touch and the skin over the tendon may be swollen and warm.
Exams and Tests
The doctor will perform a physical exam and look for tenderness along the tendon and for pain in the area of the tendon when you stand on your toes.
Imaging studies can also be helpful. X-Rays can help diagnose arthritis and an MRI or in office diagnostic ultrasound will show inflammation in the tendon.
Conservative therapy usually helps improve symptoms. However, symptoms may return if activities that cause the pain are not limited, or if the strength and flexibility of the tendon is not maintained.
Surgery, if needed, has been shown to be very effective in improving pain symptoms.
Achilles tendonitis may make you more likely to have an Achilles rupture. This condition usually causes a sharp pain, like someone hit you in the back of the heel with a stick. Surgical repair is necessary, but difficult because the tendon is not normal.