The Achilles tendon is the tendon in the back of the lower leg which connects to the heel bone, assisting in walking and other activity. It is one of the more-frequently injured parts of the leg, especially for people who are active in sports or exercise.
Injuries to the Achilles tendon can be from an accident or even a simple misstep, which can cause a rupture, partial rupture, or a fracture of the heel bone. These sorts of injuries typically occur when exercising or playing a sport, when the athlete pushes off the foot. The pain might be described as “getting hit in the back of the leg with a baseball bat,” and a “pop” may be heard or felt.
Problems can also arise slowly over time (progressive overload); repeated strain can lead to inflammation, thickening, degeneration, or calcification in the tendon, or to partial ruptures. Progressive overload can cause pain in several different parts of the tendon. Pain just 3 to 6 centimeters up the leg from the heel bone often begins with tendinitis (inflammation of the tendon), where the pain is described as aching or sore, usually when walking or running. It tends to get worse over time, and can lead to a partial rupture or thickening of the tendon (tendinosis or tendinopathy). Pain might also occur at the point where the tendon inserts into the back of the heel bone, which is often described as insertional tendinitis. This sort of tendinitis can cause bone formation in the tendon (calcification), which causes pain, swelling, and a bony prominence at the back of the heel.
If you’re experiencing pain in the lower back of your leg and foot (especially if it began with an injury accompanied by a “pop” sound or feeling), then schedule an appointment with us at Bay Area Foot Care. In a typical exam, we’ll evaluate the Achilles tendon and use x-rays, MRI, or ultrasound as needed to assess the full problem. Treatment usually begins with shoe gear modifications, stretching exercises, activity modifications, physical therapy, laser therapy, or anti-inflammatory measures. If these methods fail to relieve the pain, surgical treatment may recomended.