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Heel Pain: Signs and Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis

Dr. Eman Elmi
February 19, 2021
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Achilles tendonitis is an injury caused by overusing the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscle to the heel. Achilles tendonitis is commonly found in runners and athletes who increase the intensity or length of their runs. Achilles tendonitis is also common in middle-aged people who play recreational sports like tennis on the weekends. The injury can arise when the tendon is underused and then stressed with a high activity all at once.

Other risk factors include:

· Age: risk increases with age

· Gender: more common in males

· Prior physical issues: flat arches, obesity, and tight calf muscles can cause Achilles tendonitis

· Improper Shoes: worn-out sneakers or running in non-athletic shoes

· Medical: psoriasis or high blood pressure also are high risk

· Medications: certain antibiotics have been linked to Achilles tendonitis

When to See a Doctor for Achilles tendonitis

Symptoms of Achilles tendonitis include mild pain in the back of the lower leg or above the heel, usually after a sport or running. Another sign of Achilles tendonitis is stiffness or aching in the back of the leg after resting. 

You should seek a doctor if the pain persists or worsens with time. The doctor will perform a physical exam testing the range of motion of the foot and pressing on the area for tenderness or swelling. The doctor will also ask a series of questions about how long you have had the pain and the type of shoes you wear during exercise. In some cases, the doctor will order tests like x-rays of the leg, an MRI, and possibly an ultrasound. 

Prevention and Treatment of Achilles tendonitis

Prevention of Achilles tendonitis is centered around activity and prepping for sports. Reducing your risk begins with building slowly to the intensity of the sport and the length of time you exercise. Another preventative measure is to consider your shoes and how well they support you during any activity. Take it easy when starting a new exercise. Stretching and strengthening your leg muscles will also help prevent Achilles tendonitis. Last, consider alternating exercises that stress the legs with a low impact exercise like swimming.

At-home remedies and self-care may overcome Achilles tendonitis's pain; however, there are other treatments your doctor may recommend. Beginning with medication, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter ibuprofen (Advil, Tylenol) or naproxen (Aleve). If you need stronger relief, the doctor may prescribe a painkiller. 

At-home remedies for Achilles tendonitis can help relieve pain and mend the tendon. The RICE treatment includes Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. The idea is to keep the foot, when not in use, wrapped tightly in an elastic bandage and elevated, alternating the ice with reducing swelling. 

Depending on the duration and intensity of pain, your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist. The therapist may have some more intense treatments, including exercises with stretches targeting the foot. A physical therapist may also recommend weight training that involves a slow let down of weight after raising the weight. 


In some cases, a doctor may prescribe an orthotic wedge that elevates the heel. If these treatments do not relieve the pain after a few months, then you may need surgery to repair your Achilles tendon.

If you are experiencing pain in your heel, have more questions, or need more information about Achilles tendonitis, visit Diablo Foot and Ankle or call (925) 464-1982. We are here to help!

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