The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the human body and can withstand forces of 1,000 pounds or more. It also is the most frequently ruptured tendon, usually as a result of a sports injury. Both professional and weekend athletes may suffer from Achilles tendonitis, a common overuse injury and inflammation of the tendon.

Events that can cause Achilles tendonitis may include:

  • Hill running or stair climbing.
  • Overuse, stemming from the natural lack of flexibility in the calf muscles.
  • Rapidly increasing mileage or speed when walking, jogging, or running.
  • Starting up too quickly after a layoff in exercise or sports activity, without adequately stretching and warming up the foot.
  • Trauma caused by sudden and/or hard contraction of the calf muscles when putting out extra effort, such as in a sprint.
  • Improper footwear and/or a tendency toward overpronation.
  • Achilles tendonitis often begins with mild pain after exercise or running that gradually worsens.

Other symptoms include:

  • Recurring localized pain, sometimes severe, along the tendon during or a few hours after running.
  • Morning tenderness about an inch and a half above the point where the Achilles tendon is attached to the heel bone.
  • Sluggishness in your leg.
  • Mild or severe swelling.
  • Stiffness that generally diminishes as the tendon warms up with use.

Treatment normally includes:

  • A bandage specifically designed to restrict motion of the tendon.
  • Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication for a period of time. Note: Please consult your physician before taking any medication.
  • Orthotics, which are corrective shoe inserts designed to help support the muscle and relieve stress on the tendon. Both nonprescription orthoses (such as a heel pads or over-the-counter shoe inserts) and prescribed custom orthotics may be recommended depending on the length and severity of the problem.
  • Rest and switching to exercises that do not stress the tendon (such as swimming).
  • Stretching and exercises to strengthen the weak muscle group in front of the leg, calf, and the upward foot flexors, as well as massage and ultrasound.
  • In extreme cases, surgery is performed to remove the fibrous tissue and repair any tears.