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Achilles Tendon Pain

What is the Achilles tendon? 

The Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the body. It can be put under great stress, as it has an essential role in running, jumping and absorbing impact. In some people, too much high impact exercise can cause Achilles tendinitis (inflammation of the tendon). If the inflammation is not treated, then the Achilles tendon may tear or rupture – a very painful condition that may require extensive therapy with a sports medicine physician.

What causes Achilles tendon pain?

Achilles tendon pain is almost always caused by repetitive stress. Suddenly increasing the distance or pace of your run can cause Achilles tendinitis. Other possible causes include tight calf muscles and bone spurs in the ankle, which irritate the tendon.

Exercise-related Achilles tendinitis usually occurs above the heel in the ankle. This condition is known as noninsertional Achilles tendinitis. If you have this type of tendinitis, your Phoenix sports medicine physician may be able to detect visible swelling and thickening of the tendon in the ankle area.

Insertional Achilles tendinitis is more common in older patients; it occurs near the heel bone where the Achilles tendon meets bone. If your sports medicine doctor at St. Luke’s Medical Center observes this type of tendinitis, then he or she may perform an x-ray to see the bone spurs or calcifications irritating the tendon at the insertion point.

What are the symptoms of Achilles tendinitis?

Common symptoms of Achilles tendinitis include:

  • Pain/stiffness in the Achilles tendon. This symptom is especially common (a) in the morning, (b) during activity and (c) at its worst the day after exercise.
  • Thickened, enlarged Achilles tendon
  • Bone spur(s) near or on the heel

If you experience these symptoms, let your physician know. If you experienced a sudden “popping” sound in the back lower leg (where the Achilles tendon is located), accompanied by pain, see a physician immediately, as it is possible you may have torn your Achilles tendon. You can find a Phoenix sports medicine physician near you by calling 1-877-351-WELL.

How is Achilles tendon pain diagnosed?

When you schedule an appointment with a Phoenix sports medicine physician, your doctor will begin by asking you about your symptoms. Next, the sports medicine doctor will perform a physical examination of the foot, looking for swelling and thickening of the tendon, as well as for bone spurs near the heel. The physician may also check for tenderness and a decreased range of motion.

Some physicians may require an imaging test in order to confirm a diagnosis. At St. Luke’s Medical Center, patients may be referred for an x-ray, MRI scan, or other diagnostic test. Once the pathology of the Achilles tendon pain is determined, treatment can begin.

How is Achilles tendon pain treated?

First-line therapy may include R.I.C.E., the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, calf stretches and physical therapy. Your Phoenix sports medicine physician may also recommend eccentric strengthening exercises under the supervision of a physical therapist. These exercises lengthen the Achilles tendon as it contracts, in the same way that the bicep is worked when curling a weight away from the body.

Other therapies for Achilles tendinitis include:

Click to learn more about these cutting-edge therapies, available through Phoenix area sports medicine physicians at St. Luke’s Medical Center. In some patients, surgery may be necessary. Additional therapies may be available. Talk to your sports medicine physician at St. Luke’s Medical Center for more information. 

Ankle Pain? Schedule An Evaluation With a Phoenix Sports Med Provider

Are you suffering from Achilles tendon pain? Is ankle pain keeping you from participating in sports or the activities you enjoy? Schedule an appointment with a board-certified sports medicine physician in Phoenix by calling St. Luke’s Medical Center at 1-877-351-WELL.


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