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Achilles Tendinitis

By Paul L. Liebert, MD, Tomah Memorial Hospital, Tomah, WI

Achilles tendinitis is inflammation of the Achilles tendon, the tough band extending from the calf muscles to the heel.

Achilles tendinitis is very common in runners. During running, the calf muscles help with the lift-off phase of gait (raising up on the toes from the foot being flat on the ground). Repetitive forces from running combined with insufficient recovery time from exercise can inflame the Achilles tendon.

Pain in the lower calf and back of the heel is usually the first symptom of tendinitis. Pain initially increases when exercise is begun and often lessens as exercise continues. Doctors diagnose Achilles tendinitis based on the symptoms and results of an examination.

Ice and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) relieve pain and inflammation. Refraining from running and from pedaling a bicycle as long as the pain persists is important. Exercises to stretch and strengthen the hamstring muscles can be started as soon as they can be done without pain. Other measures depend on what conditions are causing tendinitis. Measures may include wearing shoes with flexible soles or placing heel lifts in running shoes to reduce tension on the tendon and stabilize the heel. People should return to running gradually, stretch the tendon before running, and, at the beginning, apply ice after running.

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* This is the Consumer Version. *