Athletes and Achilles Tendonitis

The Achilles tendon connects your calf muscles to your heel bone. It is the largest tendon in the body and is used during walking, running and jumping. Though it is incredibly resilient to great stress, this tendon is also prone to tendonitis, a condition associated with overuse and degeneration.

Achilles tendonitis (sometimes referred to as Achilles tendinopathy) is an inflammation of the tendon, often caused by repetitive stress to the tendon. Achilles tendonitis is one of the most common injuries in runners. This condition can be aggravated by other factors such as a sudden increase in the amount or intensity of exercise, tight calf muscles, or bone spurs.

Achilles tendonitis causes swelling, pain, or irritation. The injury may be noninsertional or insertional:

  • Noninsertional Achilles Tendonitis most commonly affects younger, active people. This occurs when fibers in the middle part of the tendon have begun to degenerate, swell, and thicken.
  • Insertional Achilles Tendonitis can affect both active and non-active patients. This involves the lower section of the heel, where the tendon inserts to the heel bone. Bone spurs often form from the damaged tendon fibers.

Treatment for Achilles tendonitis begins with rest, reducing pain and inflammation, and stretching the muscles out. Ice and heat therapy may be beneficial, as is Achilles tendon taping, and being fitted for the right running shoes.

Consult your doctor before you begin a therapy program. An MRI or Ultrasound scan may be necessary to determine the extent of the injury. Contact the Bone & Joint Center if you have any questions.