Dr. Christine Seaworth, a fellowship-trained foot and ankle surgeon in Knoxville, Tennessee, discusses Achilles tendonitis and treatment options to get you back on your feet in this patient education article.
The Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the body and helps you to push off as you walk and run to propel yourself forward. The tendon helps connect your calf muscle to your heel bone, the calcaneus. With overuse and wear and tear over time, the tendon can become inflamed and painful.
The tendon can become swollen and painful in two main areas. The more common kind is insertional Achilles tendonitis where the tendon attaches to the heel bone. Non-insertional Achilles tendonitis will be found a few inches above the heel bone attachment and is more common in patients in their 30s and 40s who have had changes in their activity levels and in those who are very active.
- A sudden increase in activity
- Tight calf muscles
- Increasing age
- Bone spurs on the back of the heel
Your clinic appointment will include a physical exam as well as an X-ray to look for bone spurs and calcifications within the Achilles tendon. Location of pain and swelling will also help determine your diagnosis and treatment plan. Sometimes an MRI will be required with long-standing pain or if there is a concern for Achilles rupture or tear.
Many patients will get better without surgery, especially if they have had painless than six months. Initial treatment will include education on your diagnosis, activity changes based on pain, avoiding going barefoot, wearing the proper shoes, and maybe the addition of an insert in your shoes such as a heel lift or arch support, physical therapy, night splint, or even a walking boot. Steroid injections are not recommended as they may weaken the tendon and make it more likely to rupture. Dr. Seaworth's physician assistant Will Short, PA-C is highly trained on the initial evaluation and treatment of Achilles tendonitis and will get your treatment program started.
Once you have tried conservative treatment with the above options at our office or elsewhere without pain relief, you may be a candidate for surgical intervention. At this point, you will be evaluated by Dr. Seaworth to see if continued conservative care or surgery will be your best option. An MRI may also be ordered for surgical planning. Surgery consists of surgical removal of the worn-out tendon with a knife and removal of the bone spur if warranted. Most patients will have significant improvement in their pain with an increased ability to be active.
University Orthoped Surgeons offers personalized foot and ankle expertise
If you're ready to discuss your Achilles tendonitis problem and treatment options with our specialty-trained foot and ankle surgeon, Dr. Christine Seaworth visit us at our UT Medical Center, West Knoxville, or Sevierville locations. You can request an appointment online or call (865) 546-2663 for our UT Medical Center and Sevierville offices, (865) 218-9300 for our West Knoxville office. Telemedicine appointments are also available by request.
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