What causes a sore Achilles tendon and how is it treated?

Tendonitis is inflammation of a tendon that can lead to pain, irritation, and swelling. Your Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body and is located on the lower back of the leg, and a sore Achilles can be debilitating. It connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Pain in this area is common because it is such a frequently used part of the body, especially by athletes. The Achilles is used for walking, running, climbing, jumping, and standing on tip toes.

Causes of a sore Achilles tendonJogger on the road

Achilles tendonitis usually stems from overuse and degeneration. Runners can suffer from the condition when they suddenly increase the intensity of workouts. Middle-aged adults and weekend warriors might also have a sore Achilles if they play a sport they are not conditioned for. The prognosis may be different for patients suffering from strains in different parts of the Achilles tendon.

When should you see a doctor for a sore Achilles?

If you hear a sudden pop in the back of your calf or heel, you should see a doctor right away. This could be a sign that you have torn the Achilles tendon, and an orthopedic specialist is needed to put the pieces back together. Other less severe signs that you should see a doctor about your sore Achilles tendon include:

  • Bone Spurs on the heel
  • Swelling that gets worse with activity
  • Pain and stiffness in the morning
  • Severe pain the day after exercising
  • Thickening of the tendon

Non-surgical treatments

An X-ray and MRI may also be needed in addition to a physical evaluation to determine the best treatment options for your sore Achilles tendon. Sometimes the condition will improve with rest and ice over time. Certain anti-inflammatory medications and cortisone shots can help, or your provider may recommend physical therapy. Stretching and strengthening of the calf muscle can also help relieve pain and reduce the risk of injury in the first place.

When is surgery necessary?

Surgery is usually recommended as a last resort if other treatment methods have proven unsuccessful. If the Achilles is torn, it will not repair itself – the tendon cannot grow back together unless it is aided by stitches or sutures. Surgery is also recommended in more serious situations, when the tendon is more than 50% torn, or in the case of an Achilles tendon rupture. Patients usually recover very well after surgery. They will experience some pain, and the recovery time will vary based on the severity of the injury.

Overall, if you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor for an evaluation of your sore Achilles tendon. This way we can determine the extent of your condition or injury and come up with treatment plans before the pain worsens. Contact Colorado Springs Orthopaedic group for a consultation with Dr. Brad Dresher, our foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon in Colorado Springs.

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