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Achilles Tendon Enthesopathy

By Kendrick Alan Whitney, DPM, Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine

Achilles tendon enthesopathy is pain where the Achilles tendon attaches to the back of the heel bone.

  • People typically feel pain at the back of the heel when walking.

  • Diagnosis includes an examination of the tendon.

  • Stretching, night splints, and heel lifts may help.

The cause is chronic traction (pulling) of the Achilles tendon where it attaches to the heel bone. Contracted or shortened calf muscles caused by being sedentary and overweight or caused by athletic overuse increase the risk. Occasionally, people with Achilles tendon enthesopathy have arthritis elsewhere ( spondyloarthritis).

Typically, people feel pain at the back of the heel below the top of the shoe when walking.

Diagnosis

  • A doctor's examination

The diagnosis of Achilles tendon enthesopathy is based on a physical examination of the tendon. The diagnosis is confirmed if people have tenderness of the tendon where it attaches to the heel bone. Manually bending (flexing) the ankle upwards during the examination usually makes the pain worse.

Treatment

  • Stretching, night splints, and heel lifts

Doing exercises that stretch the calf muscles for 10 minutes 2 to 3 times daily can help. A person can stretch the calf muscle while facing a wall at arms’ length, with the knees straight and the foot bent upward.

To minimize stress to the Achilles tendon when walking, the foot and ankle should be moved actively through the ranges of motion for about a minute when rising after long periods of rest.

Night splints may also be used to stretch the tendon during sleep and help prevent the calf muscles from becoming too tight.

Heel lifts are used temporarily for both feet to relieve pain, decrease stress on the tendon, and correct abnormal motion of the hip or back while walking.

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* This is the Consumer Version. *