The Achilles tendon is often the site of injury for many individuals. The tendon connects the calf muscle to the heel bone and plays a critical role in the ability to walk.
Since this tendon is often susceptible to injury, treatment is required for patients to properly heal and not suffer from related issues involving the ankle. The tendon is susceptible to many different types of injuries and conditions.
Achilles Tendinosis Versus Achilles Tendinitis
When it comes to the Achilles tendon, two conditions often get confused: tendinitis and tendinosis. While these conditions may sound similar, they’re actually quite different. So, let’s break it down and help you understand the difference.
What is Achilles Tendinitis?
If you’ve ever experienced pain in the back of your ankle, you may have a common condition known as Achilles tendonitis. This condition occurs when the Achilles tendon becomes inflamed or irritated. Unfortunately, it’s not just a minor inconvenience.
According to recent statistics, tendonitis causes over 70,000 people to miss work each year. In fact, Achilles tendinitis is the most common tendon injury we see in our practice.
When you engage in activities that require a lot of jumping or running, the stress on the tendon can cause it to become inflamed. This inflammation can be acute, occurring suddenly, or chronic, gradually developing over time.
You’re most likely to get Achilles tendinitis if you’re an athlete, especially if you participate in sports that involve jumping or running, like basketball, tennis, or track and field. It can also happen if you suddenly increase the intensity or duration of your workouts. Other factors that may increase your risk include age (people over 30 are more susceptible), having flat feet, or wearing shoes with inadequate support.
Symptoms may include pain and stiffness in the back of your ankle, especially when you first wake up or after prolonged periods of inactivity. You may also experience swelling and tenderness in the affected area. In severe cases, you may find it difficult to walk or participate in your usual activities.
There are two types of Achilles tendinitis: insertional and non-insertional. Insertional tendinitis occurs where the tendon inserts into the heel bone. Non-insertional tendinitis happens higher up in the tendon, and symptoms and treatment options for each type may differ.
What is Achilles Tendinosis?
Achilles tendinosis is characterized by degeneration and damage to the Achilles tendon, which can lead to pain, stiffness, and limited mobility in the affected area.
Unlike tendinitis, which is the inflammation of the Achilles tendon, tendinosis is a degenerative condition that occurs when the tendon doesn’t heal properly and instead develops scar tissue.
Anyone can develop Achilles tendinosis, but it’s more common in people who engage in sports or activities that require repetitive jumping, running, or other high-impact movements. This includes athletes, dancers, and runners. If you suddenly increase your training intensity, frequency, or duration without proper conditioning, you may also be at a higher risk of developing Achilles tendinosis.
Symptoms may include pain and stiffness in the affected area, swelling, and a reduced range of motion in your ankle. You may also feel a crackling or popping sensation in the Achilles tendon when you move your ankle.
Achilles Tendon Diagnosis
When you come to us for an Achilles tendon diagnosis, we’ll start by asking you about your symptoms and medical history. This information will help us better understand what could be causing your pain.
We’ll then perform a physical exam, which will involve assessing the range of motion, strength, and flexibility in your ankle and foot. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, we may also order imaging tests such as an X-ray or MRI to get a closer look at the tendon and surrounding tissues.
What are Common Achilles Tendon Treatments?
When dealing with an Achilles tendon injury, it can be a real pain – literally! But don’t worry. Here are some of the treatments we recommend to help you get back on your feet.
One of the most important things you can do when you have an Achilles tendon injury is to give your body time to rest and heal. This may involve avoiding activities that could further strain the tendon, such as running or jumping. Depending on the severity of the injury, you may need to use crutches or other supportive devices to keep weight off of the affected leg.
Physical therapy is a common treatment for Achilles tendon injuries, as it can help to strengthen the tendon and improve its flexibility. Therapy can involve a variety of exercises and stretches designed to increase the amount of stress on the tendon gradually. This process helps it become stronger and more resilient over time.
Braces and Supports
Depending on the nature of your injury, you may need to wear a brace or other supportive device to help reduce the strain on your Achilles tendon. These devices can help to stabilize the affected area and prevent further damage. They also allow you to continue with your normal activities as much as possible.
We may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers or prescription medication to help manage pain and inflammation. These medications can help to reduce swelling and relieve pain, allowing you to recover more quickly.
Ice and Heat Therapy
Alternating between ice and heat therapy can also effectively manage pain and inflammation associated with an Achilles tendon injury. Applying ice to the affected area can help to reduce swelling and numb pain while applying heat can help to increase blood flow and promote healing.
In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair a damaged Achilles tendon. This is typically only recommended in cases where other treatments have been unsuccessful or if the injury is particularly severe.
How Can We Help?
We understand how frustrating it can be to deal with an Achilles tendon injury. Whether you’re dealing with tendinitis or tendinosis, we want you to know that you don’t have to suffer in silence. At our clinic, we’re committed to helping our patients recover as quickly and safely as possible so that they can get back to doing the things they love.
If you’re experiencing pain, stiffness, or other symptoms associated with an Achilles tendon injury, don’t wait to seek treatment. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced providers. We’ll work closely with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that is tailored to your specific needs and goals, helping you to manage your symptoms and promote healing over time.