Many runners experience pain in their Achilles when running–soreness during the run or tightness and stiffness as they walk around afterward.
Although the Achilles tendon is the thickest and strongest tendon in the body, it is still prone to injury.
“Achilles tendinitis causes pain along the back of the leg near the heel,” said Dr. Daniel Lehman, a sports medicine physician with OrthoIndy. “The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to your heel bone. Anytime you walk, run or jump, the Achilles tendon is used and can withstand great stresses; however, due to the high stresses, overuse and degeneration, it is prone to tendinitis.”
Tendinitis is inflammation of a tendon, which is the body’s natural response to injury or disease.
“Achilles tendinitis is not related to a specific injury and can occur at any time, even in patients who are not active,” said Lehman. “Achilles tendinitis results from repetitive stress to the tendon. Sudden increase in the amount or intensity of exercise, tight calf muscles and bone spurs can aid in the likelihood of someone developing Achilles tendinitis.”
Symptoms of Achilles tendinitis include pain and stiffness along the Achilles tendon in the morning, pain along the tendon or back of the heel that worsens with activity, severe pain the day after exercising, thickening of the tendon, bone spurs and swelling that is present all the time and gets worse with activity.
“The majority of Achilles tendinitis cases can be treated without surgery,” said Lehman. “Nonsurgical treatment options include rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen, exercise with a focus on calf stretches, physical therapy and immobilization. However, even with early treatment, it may take three to six months for pain to completely subside.”
Surgery may be recommended by your physician if pain does not improve after six months of nonsurgical treatment. Your orthopedic physician will determine the best surgery options for you. It usually takes 6 to 12 months for complete recovery after surgery.