If you are experiencing painful swelling in the back of your foot just above the heel, you may be suffering from Achilles Tendonitis. This troublesome condition affects the Achilles tendon, which is the strongest and largest tendon in the body and connects the leg to the foot as it stretches from the lower leg to the heel bone. This tendon is crucial to normal walking patterns as it allows the foot to rise up on the toes.
In some cases, the tendon can rupture where there may a sudden sharp pain and / or a noticeable "snapping" or "popping" sensation in the back of the ankle. This sudden pain usually happens during intense physical activitiy such as running or jumping, but not always.
Achilles tendonitis typically develops gradually as the tendon inflammation and may include one or more of the following three stages:
Peritenonitis – This stage is characterized by localized pain during or after activity, occasionally mild swelling is seen.
Tendinosis – There may or may not be pain in this stage since it is more of a result of chronic, recurrent injuries or an injury to the tendon that never fully healed.. There is often chronic thickening of the Achilles tendon that may be felt as a nodule or swelling at the back of the leg
Peritenonitis with tendinosis - This stage is typically more chronic and may involve formation of scar tissue within the substance of the tendon (which may lead to a rupture of the tendon) and it is characterized by pain and swelling during and after activity.
As with all health conditions, Achilles tendonitis and ruptures are best treated early in the development of the condition. If you are experiencing pain and/or swelling in this region, a consultation with our experienced, board-certified foot and ankle specialists (podiatrists) will give you the best chance for a full recovery. Appropriate treatments (conservative or surgical) based on the nature and severity of the problem can be provided most effectively by foot and ankle specialists (podiatrists) such as ours who have treated both major and minor problems numerous times.
If the tendon is ruptured and surgery is necessary, a soft tissue graft is often used to strengthen the repair to prevent the risk of repeated rupture and allow a more rapid return to activity. Dr. Branch has developed an innovative new technique to repair Achlles tendon ruptures using the a graft woven into the tendon. This technique has recently been submitted to a medical journal for publication. Advantages of this technique compared to more traditional techniques are enhanced strength and less chronic thickening of the tendon.