The Achilles tendon is located at the back of the foot and links the calf muscles to the heel bone. It is largest and strongest tendon in the human body. The Achilles tendon plays a crucial role in the foot and ankle movement. It is what allows us to stand on our toes, flex the calves, and roll the foot. All important movements for activities like walking, running, jumping, and standing on tiptoes.
Although it is resilient, the Achilles is subjected to a lot of force during sports and other activities making it prone to injury. An Achilles injury is a common foot problems that podiatrists treat. If you are experiencing pain in the back of the foot or have Achilles problems in Newtown, PA, visit Newtown Foot and Ankle Specialists in Bucks County. Our doctors can put you back on the road to recovery with specialized care for your needs.
Common Achilles Problems
Many patients with Achilles tendon injuries and problems are athletic and active, leading to what is called an “overuse” injury. This type of sports injury should be cared for by a podiatrist. However, there are other causes for Achilles problems. Our doctors and providers can offer the specialized care and advice needed to resolve the diagnosed problem. They will even work with you to help prevent recurrence in the future. Common Achilles problems include:
This condition is characterized by an inflammation of the Achilles tendon. It typically occurs due to repetitive stress (overuse), not stretching efficiently, or an injury. We see this injury is runners and other athletes that repetitively jump or push off the foot. It can also be contributed to tight or weak calf muscles, a sudden increase in physical exertion, and improper footwear.
Unlike Achilles tendonitis, Achilles Tendinosis is a non-inflammatory condition. It occurs due to repetitive strain and overuse of the tendon over time without proper rest and recover. This creates microtears, collagen breakdown, and changes in the structure and composition of the tendon. Symptoms include pain and stiffness in the tendon especially in the morning or after periods of rest.
A torn Achilles tendon is when the tendon has micro tears or large tears. This is a more serious injury. This type of injury is seen in activities that involves sudden, forceful, and explosive movements of the foot and ankle such as jumping, pivoting, or accelerating. An Achilles tear will result in pain, swelling, and discomfort when walking.
A complete tear of the Achilles tendon is called an Achilles rupture. Here, the full tendon has become completely torn or separated from the bone and/or muscle. This is a very severe injury that will require medical attention. It can be caused by a sudden, forceful movement or a chronic degenerative process. Achilles tendon ruptures typically result in sudden pain, difficulty walking, and a feeling of being kicked in the calf. It will often require surgery to repair.
Xanthomas of the Achilles Tendon
Xanthomas are small, benign bumps that form on the tendon. These bumps are fatty deposits that develop within the Achilles tendon. They are typically the result of high cholesterol. They will feel firm and rubbery when you touch them however, they do not cause pain or symptoms. They can lead to changes in the Achilles tendon such thickening or enlargement. Treatment typically involves treating the underlying cause; high cholesterol. Removal the xanthomas may be necessary if they affect range of motion, function, or, in rare cases, become inflamed or rupture.
Achilles Problems: What are the treatment options?
There is a range of possible treatment options for Achilles pain, tendonitis, and other concerns. The first step is to evaluate the area using digital diagnostics and a physical exam. Once your podiatrist has identified the cause of your pain, swelling, or other symptoms we will recommend appropriate care and any lifestyle habit changes that could prevent future re-injury and protect the Achilles during recovery.
- Rest, ice, and pain medication: for minor concerns, the use of over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medication combined with rest and ice compression is usually enough to allow the tendon to recover.
- Custom orthotics: for chronic Achilles pain or for patients with overuse injuries, a custom orthotic to properly position and support the foot may help to stabilize the tendon and prevent a recurrence.
- Physical therapy: to strengthen the tendon and improve mobility, physical therapy is often recommended.
- Walking boot: a boot may be recommended for immobilizing the area while the Achilles tendon recovers from a more serious tear or tendonitis that is severe or persistent.
- Surgery: in the event of a full tear or rupture, surgery is needed to reattach the tendon. Surgery is followed by the use of a boot and physical therapy to strengthen the tendon.
Achilles Tendon Lengthening
This is a surgery that will make the Achilles tendon longer. It is necessary for people who have tight or short tendons. This will lead to limitations in the ankles range of motion or a condition called equinus deformity where the foot points downward.
Achilles Tendon Injuries
Achilles tendon injuries can vary from mild to severe. The severity of symptoms can vary depending on the extent of the strain or injury. No matter the extent of your injury, proper is very important to avoid lifetime issues.
Treatment for Achilles Problems FAQs
To learn more about Achilles problems and the various treatments, please read through our frequently asked questions. If you still have additional questions or concerns, please call Newtown Foot and Ankle Specialists in Bucks County today.
What are the symptoms of Achilles heel problems?
If a patient is experiencing pain in and above their heel it may be a sign of Achilles heel problems. The pain may get worse over time and swell and become extremely painful to move. The main fear with Achilles problems is that your Achilles tendon may tear. In this case, you will likely hear a snap and your ankle will be extremely swollen.
What can be done to protect athletes’ Achilles tendons?
The best way to protect your Achilles tendon is to know and understand your limitations with any physical activity. Most Achilles injuries occur because of repeated pressure and straining on the muscle. Also wearing ankle protective shoes can prevent you from injuries and strain on the muscle. Stretching before physical exercise to be sure that your muscles are warmed up and ready before exerting pressure on them can also help prevent injury.
Is surgery the only option for repairing an Achilles tendon?
There are multiple options your doctor will present you with when you have torn your Achilles tendon. The severity of the injury may affect the number of options you have. In some severe cases where the tendon has ruptured, surgery may be required to restore your Achilles back to full functionality. Nonsurgical treatment options may include ice, immobilization, pain killers, physical therapy, and custom orthotics.
Can I massage a damaged Achilles tendon?
Yes. If you have a torn Achilles tendon, a pressure massage will help increase blood flow to the area. Increased blood flow can help the tendon heal. A pressure massage is useful as you begin to treat your torn tendon because it can reduce pain and inflammation in the area. We recommend massages in addition to physical therapy and gentle exercises to address Achilles pain.
What does a strained Achilles tendon feel like?
A strained Achilles tendon is commonly described as extreme pain above a patient’s heel, worsening when moving or stretching ankles. The ankle may also be swollen and tender to touch. A strained Achilles tendon will worsen during activity and may feel better when at rest. It can also cause weakness in the affected leg resulting in instability.
What happens if Achilles tendonitis goes untreated?
Persistent pain or discomfort in the Achilles tendon area should be treated by a podiatrist. If you suffer from tendonitis, you need to get a diagnosis and a proper treatment plan as soon as possible. If left untreated, you will be at a higher risk of tearing or rupturing the tendon. This is a serious and painful injury that requires surgery and long term rehabilitation. You could also suffer from functional limitations and tendon degeneration.
Schedule an Appointment and Evaluation Today
We are your trusted foot and ankle specialists in Newtown, Bucks County, and beyond. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment and discuss your foot and ankle needs with our trusted doctors. Call 215.234.3772 today.