The Achilles Tendon is the thick tendon at the back of the heel. It’s formed by the two calf muscles-- the deeper soleus muscle and the overlying gastrocnemius muscle, and attaches to the back of the heel bone. The primary function of the tendon is to flex the foot. It’s involved in helping you raise up on your tiptoes and propelling you forward when you run. Repetitive overuse or recurring microscopic tears are the most common causes of Achilles Tendinitis. Less common causes are drug-induced, notably from using fluoroquinolone antibiotics such as Cipro and Levaquin, steroid use, and certain medical conditions such as undiagnosed or poorly controlled Thyroid Disease. Sometimes, the tendon completely ruptures, in which case surgery needs to be considered.
Symptoms of Achilles Tendinitis include pain and/or stiffness in the Achilles during or after an activity, thickening or swelling of the tendon, nodule formation in the tendon (it looks like a marble stuck in the middle of the tendon), and tenderness when squeezing the tendon.
Diagnosing Achilles Tendinitis usually is straightforward. A physical exam in most cases will confirm the diagnosis. Diagnostic ultrasound can also be helpful to identify any tears within the tendon. At the New England Stem Cell Institute, we’re experts in diagnostic ultrasound.
Treatment for Achilles Tendinitis starts with conservative approaches including physical therapy, ice/heat, heel cups/lifts (to reduce the tension on the tendon), night splints, and stretching/strengthening exercises. When these conservative measures fail, the TenJet® treatment may be helpful. Certain types of nerve blocks can also be helpful in reducing or alleviating pain and promoting tendon healing and repair. But when all of these conventional approaches don’t help, then regenerative medicine treatments such as prolotherapy, PRP, and other orthobiologics may be the answer. These treatments take advantage of the body’s natural healing mechanisms to repair the tendon and relieve symptoms.