Skip to Content

Achilles Tendonitis

Contact UPMC Sports Medicine

To schedule an appointment or ask a question, call 1-855-937-7678 or contact us online.

What Is Achilles Tendonitis?

The largest tendon in the body, the Achilles tendon runs along the back of the leg from the calf to the heel. It moves our leg and foot when we run or walk. Overuse of this tendon will cause it to swell and ache. Obesity or flat feet can also contribute to the condition.

Achilles tendonitis causes and risk factors

Achilles tendonitis is a common sports injury. People of all ages can get Achilles tendonitis. Some common causes and risk factors include:

  • Runners who increase the intensity of their workouts
  • New runners, or those who have not adequately prepared
  • Exercising in cold weather or in hilly areas
  • Inappropriate or worn shoes

Achilles tendonitis complications

In some cases of Achilles tendonitis, the tendon can tear, which may require surgery. Another complication may include a bone spur forming on the heel.

Achilles tendonitis symptoms and diagnosis

Strenuous activity involving the leg, including running, sprinting, or jumping, can cause Achilles tendonitis.

Symptoms may come on gradually during your activity. Sudden, extreme pain in the tendon, resulting in an inability to put weight on the foot, can indicate a rupture in the tendon. A ruptured tendon requires immediate medical attention and treatment.

Symptoms of Achilles tendonitis

Signs of Achilles tendonitis may include:

  • Pain in the heel and along the tendon when walking, running or climbing stairs
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Warmth in the tendon
  • Trouble standing

Achilles tendonitis diagnosis

Routine Achilles tendonitis diagnosis may involve the following tests:

  • X-ray to rule out bone problems
  • Ultrasound to examine soft structures
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to get a clear look at the structure of the tendon

Achilles Tendonitis Treatment

Achilles tendonitis treatment includes:

  • Limiting physical activity involving the leg
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Physical therapy and strengthening exercises
  • Orthotic devices in the shoes

If you added intensity to your workouts, get back to your workout routine gradually and warm up properly to prevent recurrence of your injury. If pain persists for six months or more, and non-surgical treatments fail to alleviate symptoms, surgery may be required to repair the tendonitis.

Achilles Tendon Surgery

Your doctor may recommend Achilles tendon surgery after non-surgical treatment options fail or when the tendon is ruptured.

During Achilles tendon surgery, your doctor will make an incision on the back of the leg and repair the tendon. This procedure sometimes includes using other tendons to reinforce the Achilles tendon.

There are two types of Achilles tendon surgeries:

  • Open surgery- The surgeon makes one large incision in the back of the ankle.
  • Percutaneous surgery- the surgeon repairs the tendon from many small incisions around the ankle.

Achilles tendon surgery recovery

After Achilles tendon surgery, you can expect to be in a cast or walking boot for six to 12 weeks. Gradually, you may return to physical activity. Typically, a full recovery time after Achilles tendon surgery is about six months.