The Achilles tendon connects the heel bone to the calf muscle of the leg. Injury to the tendon may cause it to become inflamed or torn. It lets you point your toes up and down and walk by putting your heel down first and then your toes.
Tendons are strong bands of connective tissue that attach muscle to bone. When a tendon is acutely injured it is called a strain. Achilles tendinopathy is an injury to your Achilles tendon from overuse. Tendonitis is when a tendon is inflamed. When there are micro-tears in a tendon from repeated injury it is called tendinosis. Tendinopathy is the term for both inflammation and micro-tears. This causes pain at the back of your leg by the heel.
Achilles tendinopathy can be caused by:
An Achilles tendon may tear during sudden activity. For example the tendon might tear when you jump or start sprinting.
Achilles tendinopathy causes pain and may cause swelling over the Achilles tendon. The tendon is tender and may be swollen. You will have pain when you rise up on your toes and pain when you stretch the tendon. The range of motion of your ankle may be limited.
When the tendon tears or ruptures, you may feel a pop. If there is a complete tear, you will be unable to lift your heel off the ground or point your toes.
Your healthcare provider will examine your leg, looking for tenderness and swelling. Your provider will watch your feet when you walk or run to see if you over-pronate.
To treat this condition:
The length of recovery depends on many factors such as your age, health, and if you have had a previous injury. Recovery time also depends on the severity of the injury. A tendon that is only mildly inflamed and has just started to hurt may improve within a few weeks. A tendon that is significantly inflamed and may have many tiny tears that has been painful for a long time may take up to a few months to improve. You need to stop doing the activities that cause pain until the tendon has healed. If you continue doing activities that cause the tendon pain, your symptoms will return and it will take longer to recover.
Everyone recovers from an injury at a different rate. Return to your activity depends on how soon your Achilles tendon recovers, not by how many days or weeks it has been since your injury has occurred. In general, the longer you have symptoms before you start treatment, the longer it will take to get better. The goal of rehabilitation is to return you to your normal activities as soon as is safely possible. If you return too soon you may worsen your injury.
You may safely return to your normal activities when, starting from the top of the list and progressing to the end, each of the following is true:
The best way to prevent Achilles tendon injury is to stretch your calf muscles and Achilles tendons before exercise. If you have tight Achilles tendons or calf muscles, stretch them twice a day whether or not you are doing any sports activities that day.
If you have a tendency to get Achilles tendinopathy, try to avoid running uphill.