What is achilles tendon problems?

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What are some Achilles tendon injuries?

Achilles tendinopathy and Achilles tendon tears are two common injuries. Tendinopathy happens when the tendon is injured and doesn't heal as it should. This causes swelling and pain. A partial tear may only cause mild symptoms. But a complete tear (rupture) causes pain and sudden loss of strength and movement.

How can you help prevent an Achilles tendon problem?

Most Achilles tendon injuries occur during sports. If you had an Achilles tendon problem in the past, it's even more important to try to prevent another injury. Make sure to:

  • Warm up. Before any sport or intense activity, gradually warm up your body by doing 5 to 10 minutes of walking or biking.
  • Cool down and stretch. After intense activity, gradually cool down with about 5 minutes of easy jogging, walking, or biking. Then do 5 minutes of stretches.
  • Avoid any sport or intense activity that you aren't in condition to do.
  • Wear shoes that cushion your heel during sports or any strenuous activity.
  • Wear heel pads or other orthotics that are designed to reduce stress on the Achilles tendon.

How are Achilles tendon problems diagnosed?

Most doctors diagnose an Achilles tendon problem by asking questions about your past health and checking the back of your leg for pain and swelling. If your symptoms are severe or don't improve with treatment, your doctor may want you to get an X-ray, an ultrasound, or an MRI.

Who can diagnose and treat Achilles tendon problems?

Health professionals who can diagnose and treat an Achilles tendon problem include:

  • Emergency medicine specialists, for sudden and severe (acute) Achilles problems.
  • Family medicine physicians or internists who are familiar with foot and ankle injuries.
  • Podiatrists who are familiar with sports injuries.
  • Sports medicine specialists.
  • Orthopedic surgeons, particularly for an Achilles rupture.

You may be referred to a physical therapist for exercises to rebuild strength in your Achilles tendon and leg muscles.

How is rehab used to treat Achilles tendon problems?

Rehabilitation (rehab) is part of the usual treatment for an Achilles tendon injury.

  • For Achilles tendinopathy, rehab can decrease your pain. It can allow you to gradually return to your normal activities.
  • For an Achilles tendon rupture, rehab can strengthen the tendon and help the tendon heal.

You can do rehab at home or in a gym. Your doctor or physical therapist will design a program for you. They will consider your normal level of activity, your physical fitness, and how bad the injury is. They will also provide education, instruction, and support for recovery. You will likely need rehab after an Achilles tendon injury whether or not you have surgery.

Rehab may include:

  • Stretching and flexibility exercises. These are key to helping your tendon heal without shortening and causing long-term pain.
  • Strengthening exercises. They will help you regain strength you might have lost while the tendon was healing. And they will help protect you from another injury.
  • Ultrasound heat therapy. It improves blood flow. This may aid the healing process.
  • Deep massage. It helps you increase flexibility and blood circulation in the lower leg. It can also help prevent further injury.
  • Endurance activities, such as riding a stationary bicycle.
  • Coordination and/or agility training.

Recovery varies among people. It depends on how severe the tendon injury is and whether you complete your program. Giving time and energy to your rehab program will speed your recovery and help prevent future injury.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.