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Achilles Tendon Disorders & Tears

Your Achilles tendon runs down the back of your lower leg and connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. It helps you walk by raising the heel off the ground. If your heel or calf hurts, you may need an evaluation of your Achilles tendon from a podiatrist with EvergreenHealth Foot and Ankle Care.

Types of Achilles Tendon Pain

Jumping, pivoting, or suddenly running fast can lead to overuse of the Achilles tendon and cause:

  • Achilles tendinitis (tendinopathy) – Inflammation that lasts a short time
  • Achilles tendinosis – Degeneration (breakdown) of the tendon over time
  • Achilles tendon rupture – Tear that happens when the tendon stretches too much

Athletes, people with flat arches, and people whose work puts stress on their feet are at higher risk of these conditions.

Signs & Symptoms

Achilles tendinitis and tendinosis lead to aches, stiffness, and tenderness in your heel or the back of your calf. As your condition gets worse, the tendon may swell and develop nodules (lumps) or rupture.

A torn Achilles tendon may cause:

  • Sudden pain that feels like a kick or stab in the back of the ankle or calf
  • Popping or snapping feeling
  • Swelling
  • Trouble walking, especially upstairs or uphill, and difficulty rising up on your toes

Diagnosis

To diagnose an Achilles tendon injury, an EvergreenHealth Foot and Ankle Care doctor will feel your heel and examine its strength and range of motion. You may need an imaging test to learn more.

First Aid

Right after an Achilles tendon injury, follow the RICE method:

  • Rest – Stay off the injured foot to prevent more damage.
  • Ice – Wrap a bag of ice in a thin towel and put it over the injured area for 20 minutes each waking hour to reduce swelling and pain. Don't put ice directly against your skin.
  • Compression – Wrap the foot and ankle in an elastic bandage to prevent more swelling.
  • Elevation – Keep the leg propped up at or above the level of your heart to decrease swelling.

See a doctor as soon as possible. Early treatment helps prevent more damage to your tendon.

Treatments

Your doctor may also recommend conservative, nonsurgical treatments such as:

  • Immobilization – Wear a cast or boot to keep your tendon still so it can heal.
  • Medication – Take ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce pain.
  • Physical therapy – See a physical therapist regularly to learn helpful exercises and stretches or receive hands-on, soft tissue treatment and pain-relieving ultrasound therapy.

These approaches work best if your injury is minor or you're not physically active.

Surgery

Surgical Achilles tendon repair can help protect your tendon from future injury and increase your ankle's long-term strength and range of motion. Learn what to expect from foot and ankle surgery at EvergreenHealth.

Make An Appointment

Call (425) 899-4650 in Kirkland or (360) 794-3300 in Monroe to make an appointment with one of our Foot & Ankle Care specialists.

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