Achilles Tendon Problems
The following describes the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of Achilles tendon problems. For specific information regarding your health and treatment options, please contact your Hurley physician or medical professional.
What are Achilles tendon problems?
Achilles tendon problems involve injuries to the tendon that connects your calf to your heel bone. The Achilles tendon enables you to walk and run.
What causes Achilles tendon problems?
Achilles tendon problems often involve repetitive stress injuries. Repeated stress on the tendon causing small tears in the tendon over time. The stress can be due to overuse (including in sports activities), obesity, lack of flexibility in the leg muscles, muscular imbalance, or misalignments of the leg or foot.
What are the symptoms of Achilles tendon problems?
Achilles tendon problems may appear in several stages, each of which involves increasing levels of pain. In the early phase, you may experience a mild ache after activity, which goes away after a short period of time. If the tendon continues to experience stress, you may begin to feel pain during the activity in addition to pain afterward, but not so great that it keeps you from engaging in the activity.
If you continue to use the joint without treatment, the stress tears in the tendon could increase, causing intense pain during and after the activity and making it difficult to perform or engage in the activity. Finally, if the stress continues unabated, the tendon may be weakened enough that it tears completely, causing significant pain and making any activity impossible.
How are Achilles tendon problems diagnosed?
Your Hurley physician will conduct a complete physical exam of the injured area in order to rule out other conditions and asses the condition of the joint and tendon. This exam may include tests for tightness in the calf or foot muscles, joint stability, range of motion, neurovascular issues, and the condition of your other leg joints (knees and hips). To determine the precise location and level of injury, your physician may order x-rays, an MRI or a CT scan, as appropriate.
How are Achilles tendon problems treated?
As is typical with sports-related injuries, your physician will recommend a specific treatment or set of treatments from a range of options, depending on your age, general health, ability to comply with treatment plans, and your athletic and fitness goals.
Treatment of minor cases of Achilles tendon problems may include avoidance of high-impact exercise such as running and jumping, and the use of exercises to stretch the muscles and strengthen tendons of the affected area.
For immediate care, your Hurley physician may recommend the PRINCE treatment model:
P: Protect your ankle with a supportive brace and, if necessary, use crutches.
R: Rest your ankle.
I: Use ice on your ankle several times a day for 10 to 20 minutes each time, to reduce pain and swelling. (Be sure to use a cloth between the ice or ice bag and the joint, in order to avoid damage to your skin.)
N: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) may be used to help with pain relief and to reduce swelling.
C: Compression with an elastic compression wrap also helps reduce swelling; however, do not rely on the wrap for support while walking.
E: Elevation—lie back and raise your foot above the level of your heart (using a pillow for support) to reduce swelling and bruising.
Other non-surgical treatment options include physical therapy, massage (to improve blood circulation) and corticosteroid injections.
Surgery may be considered for severe cases that have shown no improvement for a significant period of time or if there is complete tear of the tendon. The surgery, which can often be performed arthroscopically, will repair or remove damaged parts of the tendon.