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What Is Achilles Tendon Pain?

The Achilles tendon is the fibrous band of tissue that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. When it stretches beyond its ability, it can tear or become inflamed. This can result in pain, discomfort, aching, and stiffness.

Achilles tendon pain is traceable to different Achilles tendon injuries, including Achilles tendonitis, tendinosis, and even a rupture. To arrive at a diagnosis of Achilles tendon pain, a detailed history, physical examination, and possibly imaging tests may be required.

Summary of Important Points

  • Achilles tendon pain occurs as a result of injury to the Achilles tendon, either in the form of an overstretch, tear, inflammation, or a complete rupture.
  • Severity of pain due to Achilles tendon injury depends on the severity of the injury.
  • Symptoms associated with the Achilles tendon include stiffness, swelling, tenderness, and warmth.
  • Achilles tendon pain can be treated by conservative means using rest, ice, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), exercise, orthotics, or surgery.
  • You should consult your doctor if you notice the pain is not responding to home remedies or affecting your regular functioning.

Symptoms of Achilles Tendon Pain

Burning pain that worsens with activity is the most common symptom associated with the Achilles tendon. Achilles tendinitis is another symptom that occurs when the Achilles tendon is inflamed. This usually presents as swelling, tenderness, and warmth in the affected area.

There may also be stiffness around the calf and heel. Consequently, there will be limited range of motion when flexing the foot, and walking will be awkward and difficult. There may also be scar tissue formation and thickening of the Achilles tendon.

Causes and Risk Factors of Achilles Tendon Pain

Any number of conditions can cause Achilles tendon pain. Some of the most common are listed below:

Achilles Tendonitis

Refers to the inflammation of the Achilles tendon. Most common among men and people over 30, especially athletes and sportsmen. It is also common in people with foot problems (limb length discrepancy, flat feet, bony spurs), high blood pressure, psoriasis, and those who train in cold weather.

Those with Achilles tendonitis usually experience a burning pain that becomes worse after physical activity and is felt at the bottom of the calf muscles or near the heel bone.

Achilles Tendinosis

Occurs when Achilles tendonitis is left untreated. The tendon breaks down causing severe pain. There may also be scar tissue formation as the Achilles tendon thickens.

Achilles Tendon Rupture

A complete or partial rupture of the Achilles tendon can occur when a sudden force is transmitted through the tendon. Usually, the tear is accompanied by a popping sound and is common in strenuous sports like basketball. It has also been associated with the use of fluoroquinolone.

Risk Factors

Common to all three causes of Achilles tendon pain is these risk factors that can increase the chances of Achilles Tendonitis:

  • Age Most common in individuals between the age of 30 and 40.
  • Sex More likely to occur in men than in women.
  • Antibiotic medications Fluoroquinolone antibiotics increase the risk of Achilles tendon pain.
  • Recreational sports High-impact sports like running, jumping, and basketball.

Aggravating factors

Regardless of the cause of the pain, Achilles tendon pain can be worsened by:

  • Repetitive movement on the feet
  • Inadequate rest and recovery time
  • Wearing improper shoes

Conservative Treatments for Achilles Tendon Pain

Treatment for the Achilles tendon depends on the cause of the pain. While Achilles tendinitis, tendinosis, and even a partial tear can be treated with home remedies and conservative methods, a complete rupture will likely require surgery.

Here are a few conservative treatment methods:


Failure to rest the feet will worsen Achilles tendinitis. It is recommended to stay off your feet as much as possible. This can be done by putting your foot in a cast or avoiding walking totally. You should also switch from high impact activities to low impact activities.

Use of NSAIDs

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are a good first line of treatment. They can help relieve any pain and prevent inflammation.


At the acute phase, you can use ice to combat inflammation and relieve pain. Put ice on the tendon for up to 20 minutes, three times daily.


Exercises are a good way to address Achilles tendon pain. Mobility, stretching, or strengthening exercises can alleviate pain. It will also help prevent injury and improve your lifestyle.


Orthotics help relieve Achilles tendon pain by reducing strain and irritation and improving your foot mechanics.

Various foot supports help Achilles tendonitis. For example, silicone Achilles sleeves help to reduce the irritation that is caused by the back of shoes. Whereas, in the case of pain from insertional Achilles tendonitis, you can use a heel lift to move the heel away from the back of the shoe to prevent excessive friction.

Can Achilles Tendon Pain Be Treated or Prevented Without Surgery?

Without quick intervention, there is a great risk of Achilles tendon pain getting worse. As such, if conservative treatment doesn’t work, surgery becomes necessary. The surgical intervention may involve gastrocnemius recession, bone spur and tendon tissue removal, or repairing the tendon.

To prevent Achilles tendon pain, consider exercising daily, warming up the muscles before activity, wearing shoes with proper cushioning and arch support, and avoiding high heels.

Should You See a Doctor for Achilles Tendon Pain?

If you develop Achilles tendon pain, you must consult a doctor as soon as possible. Other symptoms that may warrant a visit to the doctor’s office include leg or ankle stiffness, swelling of the Achilles tendon, difficulty flexing your foot, and signs of inflammation (redness, warmth) around the Achilles tendon.

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