What Is Achilles Tendonitis?

Achilles tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis occurs when the tendon that connects the back of your leg to your heel becomes swollen and painful near the bottom of the foot.

There are two large muscles in the calf. These create the power needed to push off with the foot or go up on the toes.

The large Achilles tendon connects these muscles to the heel and allows you to push your foot down. You use your Achilles tendon when walking, running, and jumping.

Tendonitis due to overuse is most common in younger people. It can occur in walkers, runners, or other athletes. Tendonitis from arthritis is more common in middle-aged and older adults.

The symptoms of achilles tendonitis include:

  • Pain in the heel and along the length of the tendon when walking or running
  • Pain and stiffness in the area in the morning
  • Pain in the achilles tendon when touched or moved
  • Swelling and warmth in the heel or along the tendon
  • Difficulty standing up on one toe

Diagnosis of Achilles Tendonitis

Your health care provider will first perform a physical exam. Your doctor will look for tenderness along the tendon and pain in the area of the tendon when you stand on your toes.

X-rays can help diagnose bone problems, and an MRI scan may be done if you are considering surgery or there is a chance that you have a tear in the Achilles tendon.

Treatment at Penn

Achilles tendonitis can often be treated without surgery. Your health care team can recommend changes to your normal activity that will help with your symptoms. A physical therapist can also show you stretching exercises for the Achilles tendon. It is important to remember that it may take at least two to three months for the pain of Achilles tendonitis to go away. If your pain does not improve, you may need surgery to remove inflamed tissue and abnormal areas of the tendon. If there is a bone spur irritating the tendon, surgery can be used to remove the spur.

Penn Programs & Services for Achilles Tendonitis

Translucent skeletal image indicating foot and ankle pain
Foot and Ankle Pain

Penn orthopaedic foot and ankle specialists offer comprehensive surgical and non-surgical options to treat every type of foot and ankle condition.

Musculoskeletal Medicine

The highly skilled physiatrists of Penn Medicine’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation department treat musculoskeletal disorders.

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