Woman in sports clothes, clutching archilles tendon

Achilles Tendonitis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Options

Achilles tendonitis is a common overuse injury that affects the Achilles tendon, a vital band of tissue connecting the calf muscles to the heel bone. This condition often occurs in runners who suddenly increase the intensity or duration of their runs. It is also prevalent among middle-aged individuals who engage in weekend sports activities like tennis or basketball. While most cases of Achilles tendonitis can be effectively treated with at-home care, severe cases may require surgical intervention. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for Achilles tendonitis to help you better understand and manage this condition.

Understanding Achilles Tendonitis

The Achilles tendon plays a crucial role in walking, running, jumping, and pushing up on your toes. Over time, repetitive strain or intense activity can weaken the structure of the tendon, making it more susceptible to injury. This is especially true for individuals who suddenly increase the intensity of their running programs or engage in sporadic sports activities. Additionally, factors such as age, physical problems like a naturally flat arch or tight calf muscles, training choices, certain medical conditions, and specific medications can increase the risk of Achilles tendonitis.

Recognising Symptoms

The most common symptom of Achilles tendonitis is pain. It typically begins as a mild ache in the back of the leg or above the heel after running or engaging in sports activities. Episodes of more severe pain may occur after prolonged running, stair climbing, or sprinting. Tenderness and stiffness, especially in the morning, are also common symptoms that usually improve with mild activity. If you experience persistent pain around the Achilles tendon or severe pain and disability, it is essential to consult a doctor as you may have a torn or ruptured Achilles tendon.

Diagnosing Achilles Tendonitis

To diagnose Achilles tendonitis, a healthcare professional will perform a physical examination and review your medical history. They may ask about your symptoms, the duration and intensity of pain, and any recent changes in activity levels. Imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or MRI, may be ordered to assess the extent of the injury and rule out other conditions. It is crucial to seek medical attention for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

Treating Achilles Tendonitis

Self-Care Strategies

In most cases, Achilles tendonitis can be effectively managed with self-care strategies under the supervision of a healthcare professional. These strategies aim to reduce pain, inflammation, and further strain on the tendon. Here are some self-care measures you can take:

  1. Rest: Allow your tendon to heal by avoiding activities that aggravate the condition. This may involve reducing or modifying your exercise routine.
  2. Ice: Apply ice to the affected area for 15-20 minutes several times a day to reduce pain and inflammation.
  3. Compression: Use compression bandages or wraps to provide support and reduce swelling.
  4. Elevation: Elevate your leg to reduce swelling and promote blood circulation.
  5. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium can help manage pain and reduce inflammation.
  6. Physical therapy: Consult with a physical therapist who can guide you through specific exercises to strengthen the tendon and surrounding muscles.

Advanced Treatment Options

If self-care measures do not provide sufficient relief, your doctor may recommend more advanced treatment options, such as:

  1. Orthotics: Lightfeet insoles can provide support, improve foot alignment, and reduce strain on the Achilles tendon.
  2. Immobilisation: In some cases, a walking boot or brace may be necessary to immobilise the tendon and allow it to heal.
  3. Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT): This non-invasive treatment uses shockwaves to stimulate healing and reduce pain.
  4. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy: PRP therapy involves injecting a concentrated solution of platelets into the affected area to promote healing.
  5. Surgery: In severe cases of Achilles tendonitis, where the tendon is torn or ruptured, surgical repair may be necessary. The surgical procedure aims to reattach the tendon and restore its function.

Preventing Achilles Tendonitis

Although it may not always be possible to prevent Achilles tendonitis, there are measures you can take to reduce your risk of developing this condition. These preventive strategies include:

  1. Gradual Increase in Activity: When starting or modifying an exercise regimen, gradually increase the duration and intensity of your training to allow your body to adapt.
  2. Proper Warm-up: Always warm up before engaging in strenuous activities. Start with gentle exercises to prepare your muscles and tendons for more intense activity.
  3. Appropriate Footwear: Choose shoes that provide adequate cushioning for your heel and have firm arch support to reduce tension on the Achilles tendon. Replace worn-out shoes regularly.
  4. Stretching: Perform regular calf muscle and Achilles tendon stretches to maintain flexibility and prevent recurrence of Achilles tendonitis. Stretch before and after exercise.
  5. Calf Muscle Strengthening: Strong calf muscles can better handle the stresses encountered during activities. Incorporate calf-strengthening exercises into your fitness routine.
  6. Cross-training: Alternate high-impact activities, such as running and jumping, with low-impact activities like cycling or swimming to reduce strain on the Achilles tendon.

Can a Torn Tendon Heal on Its Own?

In some cases, a torn Achilles tendon may heal on its own with appropriate rest and self-care measures. However, it is crucial to seek medical attention for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. A healthcare professional can assess the severity of the tear and determine the best course of action. In more severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to repair the torn tendon.


Achilles tendonitis is a common overuse injury that can cause pain and discomfort. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options, you can take proactive steps to manage and prevent this condition. Remember to consult with a healthcare professional if you experience persistent pain or suspect a torn tendon. With proper care and treatment, you can recover from Achilles tendonitis and return to your favourite activities pain-free.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

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