Achilles Tendon Pain: Types and Symptoms

November 12, 2012

Achilles Tendon Pain: Types and Symptoms

The Achilles tendon is named after the legendary Greek hero Achilles, who was completely invulnerable – except for the tendon on the back of his leg that ran from his calf to his heel. He would be killed by an arrow to his tendon. Achilles tendon pain makes us aware of some of the agony Achillies went through before he died.

But Achilles was lucky. He never had to live with Achilles tendon pain, also known as Achilles tendonitis. There are two main types of Achilles tendon pain – acute and chronic. It is unknown what type Achilles had because he died immediately after first getting Achilles tendon pain. Acute means that you only have the pain once in a while, usually as the immediate result of an injury. Chronic means the pain is constant of very frequent.

Symptoms of Acute Achilles Tendonitis

Acute Achilles tendon pain starts suddenly and feels very sharp. The pain happens right after being injured, so the patient knows what activity caused the pain to begin. Other symptoms include:

  • Pain centered around where the ankle connects to the heel bone

  • Pain subsides or goes away after resting the leg

  • If pain starts at the beginning of an exercise, it often subsides as the person continues with the exercise

  • Pain comes and goes for a few days.

Runners and joggers frequently experience acute tendonitis pain. The pain starts right after starting a run, but then eases up as the run progresses and may start to become painful again near the end of the run. These symptoms are often managed with icing and anti-inflammatory drugs. But anyone with these symptoms should get checked out by a doctor to be sure that the tendon is not tearing. If acute Achilles tendonitis does not heal correctly, the patient may develop chronic Achilles tendonitis.

Symptoms of Chronic Achilles Tendonitis

Chronic Achilles tendon pain comes along gradually over the course of a few weeks. The pain does not go away during exercise or even after rest. Pain is worst when walking up stairs. Other symptoms of chronic Achilles tendonitis include:

  • Skin over the painful area becomes red

  • Pain begins upon waking up in the morning

  • Tendon in back of leg swells

  • Back of the heel becomes noticeably larger

  • Small lumps appear under the skin of the Achilles tendon.

Symptoms of chronic Achilles tendonitis are similar to “pump bump” or retrocalcaneal bursistis. Do not try to self-diagnose these symptoms. Go to a doctor to get a diagnosis and proper treatment.

Care Tips

When getting treated for tendon pain, do yourself a favor and do not wear tight shoes, boots or high heels. Check the shoes that you wear most often, including your exercise shoes. Are they worn out in places? Do they need replacing? Take five or ten minutes to gently stretch your calves before going on a run or doing other exercises. Exercise on a flat area instead of a hilly one. Stop exercising if the pain returns.

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