The Achilles tendon, also known as the calcaneal tendon, is the largest and strongest tendon in the body. This strong band of fibrous tissue connects the calf muscles to the heel bone (calcaneus). The Achilles tendon is essential for basic movements, including running, walking, jumping, and more. Although the Achilles tendon is known for its strength, it is also highly prone to injury, as a result of its limited blood supply and the high tension and pressure placed on it every single day.
Learn more about the most common Achilles tendon injuries, such as Achilles tendonitis and Achilles tendon ruptures, their usual symptoms, and how Comprehensive Foot Specialists in Huntington, NY, diagnoses and treats Achilles tendon injuries so you can live your most active and comfortable life.
The Achilles tendon is a large tendon that runs along the back of the leg, originating above the knee joint and inserting into the heel bone. This unit is responsible for basic movements such as walking and running, so it withstands a large amount of pressure every day. The most common Achilles tendon injuries include Achilles tendonitis and the rupture of the tendon.
Achilles tendonitis is when the Achilles tendon becomes irritated and inflamed. Typically, the most common symptoms patients experience are pain and swelling in the back of the ankle and/or lower leg. This pain is most obvious during physical activity and tends to diminish soon after. One type of Achilles tendonitis is insertional tendonitis, which is the degeneration of the fibers of the tendon directly at its insertion into the heel bone.
Achilles ruptures occur when the tendon at the back of the ankle breaks or tears. Patients often describe a sudden onset of sharp pain in the back of the leg, along with a snapping sound. This type of injury can cause mobility issues such as difficulty walking or standing on the toes of the affected side of the body.
While the causes of Achilles tendonitis are vast, the most common include:
– High heeled shoes
– Rheumatoid arthritis
– Certain medications (i.e. fluoroquinolone or steroids)
Ruptures can happen for a variety of reasons, with the most common being traumatic sports injuries. These injuries are most common in sports that require sudden pushing off or sprinting, like basketball or tennis. Other causes of an Achilles tendon rupture include:
– Sudden bending of the foot
– Chronic tendonitis
– Rheumatoid arthritis
– Certain medications (i.e. fluoroquinolones)
Achilles tendonitis is diagnosed in an office setting, based on the patients’ symptoms and a physical examination. However, additional imaging (such as an MRI) is often ordered to aid in determining the extent of the tendonitis and to rule out other pathology in the Achilles tendon area.
The diagnosis of an Achilles tendon rupture is determined based on the patient’s symptoms. The doctor will examine the posterior leg and a palpable gap may be felt just above the heel, unless swelling has filled the defect. The doctor may also perform an additional exam while the patient is lying face down or sitting with their legs hanging free, called a Thompson test. The doctor will squeeze the calf muscle and if no injury is present, the toes will point downwards as the competent tendon pulls on the back of the foot. With an Achilles tendon rupture, the foot will most often not move, resulting in a positive Thompson test.
At Comprehensive Foot Specialists, we are committed to healing a wide range of foot conditions, including Achilles tendonitis and Achilles tendon rupture. All patients are welcome at our state of the art office in Huntington, NY, where you will receive only the best treatment from our team of experts. To learn more about the additional services and treatments we offer or to book an appointment, please contact us today.
Treatment for Achilles tendonitis begins with rest, ice, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications. In addition, the doctor may recommend adding an orthotic or heel lift to your shoes to alleviate pressure on the tendon. Furthermore, physical therapy can help reduce inflammation and strengthen the tendon, ultimately reducing pain in the area. Cautiously, corticosteroid injections are used as a last resort, as they can increase the risk of tendon rupture in the future.
Treatment for an Achilles tendon rupture can depend on many different variables, such as the patient’s age, level of activity, and the severity of the injury. Both surgery and nonsurgical methods can treat an Achilles tendon rupture, however, surgery is the most common treatment for addressing and healing this type of injury.
With a non-surgical route, the patient will wear a cast or a boot with the foot and ankle flexing downward. The cast or boot may be worn for 8 to 12 weeks, which is also followed by physical therapy. Surgery is usually advised for young to middle-aged patients who are active. During surgery, the Achilles tendon rupture is sewn back together. Following the surgery, the patient will wear a cast or walking boot for approximately 4 to 6 months and will be required to attend physical therapy as well. To fully return to sports or any physical activity, recovery can take up to a year or more.
At Comprehensive Foot Specialists, our expert physicians are dedicated to treating a wide variety of foot and ankle conditions so you can live comfortably, 24/7. Contact us today to learn more!Book an Appointment