Achilles Tendon Problems - Treatment Overview

Early treatment usually results in better healing.

Achilles tendinopathy

To treat Achilles tendinopathy:

  • Use home treatment. This includes resting your lower leg and foot, stretching the area, wearing cushioned shoes or other orthotics, and switching sports or modifying how you do sports that may have caused the problem.
  • Reduce pain by using ice or taking over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), as directed. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Follow any physical therapy that your doctor has prescribed. This may include stretching and strengthening exercises, deep massage, heat, or ultrasound.

If your Achilles tendon shortens and stiffens while you sleep, your doctor may suggest that you wear a night brace to keep your foot in a neutral position (not pointing up or down).

If you keep having pain or stiffness in the ankle area, your doctor may prescribe a walking boot or other device for 4 to 6 weeks. This keeps your lower leg and ankle from moving. It allows the tendon to heal.

If you still have Achilles tendon pain after more than 6 months of consistent treatment and rest, you might need to consider surgery.

Achilles tendon rupture

Treatment for an Achilles tendon rupture includes:

  • Surgery followed by rehabilitation (rehab). This is the most common treatment for younger adults.
  • Immobilizing your leg, followed by rehab. This prevents movement of the lower leg and ankle. It allows the ends of the Achilles tendon to reattach and heal.

What to think about

Don't smoke or use other tobacco products. Smoking slows healing, because it decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair.

If you have an Achilles tendon rupture, your decision about whether to have surgery will depend in part on your:

  • Age and activity level. For example, if you are an older adult who doesn't do activities that may cause another rupture and who doesn't want the added risk of surgery, you may choose to use a cast or similar device.
  • Medical condition. If you have another medical condition—such as diabetes or heart or lung disease—that raises the risks associated with surgery, you may choose to use a cast or similar device.
  • Time since injury. Over time, the torn ends of the tendon shorten and pull away from each other. If they are too far apart, the surgery is less likely to work. If surgery is chosen, many surgeons will wait a few days for the swelling to go down, then do the surgery as soon as possible. Surgery is usually done within 4 to 6 weeks.
Achilles Tendon Rupture: Should I Have Surgery?
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
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