Achilles tendons connect calf muscle to heel bones, running down the back of each lower leg and enabling you to lift your heel as you walk. Overstressed tissues cause Achilles tendon or heel cord problems, most commonly following strenuous exercise. That’s why it’s most common among athletes. The medical professionals of San Juan Foot and Ankle Center, Montrose, Colorado, are experienced foot and ankle surgeons who offer a selection of treatment options for Achilles tendon injuries. If you have Achilles tendon problems, podiatrist Christopher O. Cook, DPM, FACFAS, can help, so call the center or book an appointment online today.
Overstressing your Achilles tendon with sudden and excessive activity can cause micro-injuries to the tendon fibers. Continued stress on the Achilles tendon means it can’t heal itself, resulting in ongoing pain. This initial stage is called Achilles tendinitis, and if treated promptly and correctly, it resolves fairly quickly.
If the tendon doesn’t heal, it can begin to degenerate, leading to Achilles tendinosis. If it reaches this stage, the tendon structure starts to alter and can develop microscopic tears.
Pain in any part of the tendon from the heel to the knee is the primary symptom of an Achilles tendon injury, and your leg may feel achy, stiff, sore, or tender, as well as painful. Symptoms are usually more apparent when activity resumes after resting; although it may ease initially, pain generally returns if activity increases.
Squeezing the tendon on the sides can be tender or even severely painful, but if you press on the back of the tendon, it won’t be as bad. If the Achilles tendon starts to degenerate as a result of tendinosis, it may develop nodules and show signs of enlargement.
Your surgeon at the San Juan Foot and Ankle Center examines your foot and ankle and assesses how well the tendon works. They’re checking for signs of restricted motion or deterioration in the tendon and may use additional diagnostic imaging tools such as X-rays to assess the tendon’s condition.
The early stages of Achilles tendinitis, when the tendon is acutely inflamed, are best treated with rest, anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen, and by applying ice packs to the injury to reduce inflammation. To keep pressure and stress off of the tendon, you may need to wear a cast or removable boot, and if you have overpronation (flat feet) or gait abnormalities, your doctor is likely to prescribe custom orthotic devices to help correct any physical issues.
Night splints may be helpful in stretching the Achilles tendon while you sleep, and a physical therapist can help with strengthening and stretching exercises, massage and mobilization techniques, advice on improving gait and running style, and ultrasound therapy.
Surgery is an option if other treatments aren’t helping the problem, but noninvasive methods resolve pain and restore normal function for most patients. If you’re experiencing ankle pain, contact Dr. Cook at San Juan Foot and Ankle Center for expert treatment of your Achilles tendon problems. Call the center or book an appointment online today.