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Achilles Tendon Problems

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The Achilles tendon camera.gif connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. It lets you rise up on your toes and push off when you walk or run.

The two main problems are:

  • Achilles tendinopathy. This includes one of two conditions:
    • Tendinitis. This actually means "inflammation of the tendon." But inflammation is rarely the cause of tendon pain.
    • Tendinosis. This refers to tiny tears (microtears) in the tissue in and around the tendon. These tears are caused by overuse. In most cases, Achilles tendon pain is the result of tendinosis, not tendinitis. Some experts now use the term tendinopathy to include both inflammation and microtears. But many doctors may still use the term tendinitis to describe a tendon injury.
  • Achilles tendon tear or rupture. An Achilles tendon also can partially tear or completely tear (rupture) camera.gif. A partial tear may cause mild or no symptoms. But a complete rupture causes pain and sudden loss of strength and movement.

Problems with the Achilles tendon may seem to happen suddenly. But usually they are the result of many tiny tears in the tendon that have happened over time.

Achilles tendinopathy is likely to occur in men older than 30. Most Achilles tendon ruptures occur in people 30 to 50 years old who are recreational athletes ("weekend warriors"). Ruptures can also happen in older adults.

Achilles tendinopathy is most often caused by overuse or repeated movements during sports, work, or other activities. For example, if you do a lot of pushing off or stop-and-go motions when you play sports, you can get microtears in the tendon.

Achilles tendon rupture is most often caused by a sudden, forceful motion that stresses the calf muscle. This can happen during an intense athletic activity or even during simple running or jumping. Middle-aged adults are especially likely to get this kind of injury.

Symptoms of Achilles tendinopathy include swelling in the ankle area and mild or severe pain. The pain may come on gradually or may only occur when you walk or run. You may have less strength and range of movement in the ankle.

Symptoms of an Achilles tendon rupture may include a sudden, sharp pain. Most people feel or hear a pop at the same time. Swelling and bruising may occur. You may not be able to point your foot down or stand on your toes.

Your doctor can tell if you have 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, ultrasound scan, or MRI.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 03, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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