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Life in Motion

An Achilles size injury that can take down even the greatest of athletes

Health & Prevention, Sports & Exercise

Achilles Tendon: Common Injuries and Treatment Options

Whether you want to strut in stilettos or add an extra mile to your run, you will need your Achilles tendon in good shape.  The Achilles tendon, which is located in the back of your leg near your heel, connects the calf muscles to the heel bone and is used when walking, running, and jumping. We talked to Kurt Hofmann, MD, New England Baptist Hospital orthopedic surgeon and specialist in minimally invasive foot  and ankle surgery to find out what are the common injuries and treatment options to the Achilles tendon.

Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendinitis is an overuse injury which is common in repetitive fitness activities, such as, running, jumping and CrossFit. Runners who suddenly increase their mileage can develop this injury which occurs when the Achilles tendon becomes irritated and inflamed. This injury can occur if you try something new too soon or have not made overall fitness part of your routine. To prevent this injury, mix up the types of exercises, stretches and activities that you do with a focus on your overall health.

Should you find yourself with Achilles tendonitis, it usually responds well to non-surgical treatments: rest, ice, anti-inflammatories, stretching and physical therapy. In certain cases, a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection may be helpful in order to alleviate your symptoms.  If your condition does not improve with conservative treatment, your doctor may suggest minimally invasive surgical treatment.

Achilles Tendon Rupture (Tear)

A rupture of the Achilles tendon can occur during vigorous activities for example, running and jumping but also can happen as a result of gradual wear and tear.  A rupture occurs when there is a tearing and separation of the tendon fibers.  If an Achilles tendon rupture goes untreated, then it may not heal properly and could lead to loss of strength and function. A rupture can be treated either with bracing or surgery coupled with functional rehabilitation.

Immobilization and bracing for 8-12 weeks or more may be necessary. The likelihood of re-rupture may be higher with a non-surgical approach and recovery can take longer.  Traditional surgery involves a large incision directly on the back of the heel in order to repair the tendon. With the minimally invasive approach, the incision is much smaller, and the repair is much stronger, decreasing the risk of infection and allowing patients to fully bear weight in a boot the day after surgery.

If you have any type of persistent pain, consult an orthopedic expert.

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