Achilles Tendon Pain

In ancient mythology, Achilles was the mightiest warrior representing the Greeks in the Trojan War. His namesake tendons share some of those “mighty” characteristics: they’re the thickest, toughest, and strongest of their kind. Your Achilles tendons are able to support and lift the full weight of your body each time you walk, run, jump, or land.

Unfortunately, like the Greek hero, they’re not indestructible. Painful Achilles tendon conditions are among the most common athletic injuries, especially among active young and middle-aged adults, and they can really get in the way of enjoying favorite activities.

A Quick Look at the Achilles Tendon

Also known as the “heel cord,” the Achilles attaches the calf muscles (plantaris, gastrocnemius, soleus) to the heel bone, or calcaneus. It stretches from around the low-to-mid calf to the heel, where it gradually narrows and inserts into the bone.

Achilles tendon injuries tend to occur more commonly among middle-aged men, particularly those who suddenly increase the intensity of their activities. Those who rapidly increase their running mileage or who fit the profile of a “weekend warrior,” packing in a lot of sports or outdoor hobbies during their days off, are most at risk. Tendons tend to weaken and lose flexibility with age, making active adults especially susceptible. However, Achilles injuries can happen to just about anyone at any age.

Achilles Tendinitis: Overuse Injury

Use of Achilles TendonThe most famous (or infamous) painful Achilles tendon condition is Achilles tendinitis. This problem tends to start with a mild ache that shows up in the back of the leg or just above the heel after a burst of activity—for example, going for a run. As time goes on, that ache may get worse and worse, and occur alongside episodes of tenderness, stiffness, or swelling.

Achilles tendinitis is an overuse injury, meaning it isn’t caused by a particular accident or injury. Instead, repetitive stresses from periods of activity strain the tendon fibers faster than the body can repair them. The good news is that it can almost always be treated successfully through conservative therapies. Traditional treatments tend to include a combination of rest, physical therapy, exercises, and orthotics. Our office is also proud to offer MLS laser therapy, a more advanced and non-invasive tool that can be very effective at relieving painful inflammation and boosting your body’s natural healing processes.

Achilles Tendon Rupture: When the Tendon Tears

The Achilles can partially or completely rupture when stretched beyond its limit. Damage is usually due to a single, powerful force—for example, an awkward landing or pivot. Pain is often immediate and severe. Swelling follows, and walking may be extremely difficult.

Achilles tendon ruptures may be repaired conservatively or surgically. Conservative treatment requires a period of immobilization in a cast or walking boot. There are pros and cons to each approach, although generally speaking surgery offers a higher overall success rate, with greater function and less chance of a later re-injury. That said, we always strive to do what’s best for the individual patient and help you meet your personal needs and goals. We’ll discuss each option with you thoroughly so that we can arrive at a decision together.

When treating an Achilles injury, it’s important not just to look at the fixing the symptoms, but also correct the underlying causes. Common contributing factors to injury include flat feet, tight calf muscles, or even ill-fitting shoes. Dr. Wilks will help you address these and other possible risks through preventative measures such as footwear or training modifications, orthotics, or physical therapy. The goal is to keep you on your feet and enjoying your activities without pain for as long as possible!

If your Achilles is hurting, give the Wilks Advanced Foot Care in Roseburg, OR a call. You can reach us by dialing (541) 673-0742 today.

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