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A runner holding his Achilles tendon.

What causes Achilles tendinitis?

Achilles tendinitis is a common injury that causes pain and tenderness on the back of the leg by the heel.

“The most common causes of Achilles tendinitis are exercising without a proper warmup and playing sports that require a lot of pivoting or directional changes, such as tennis,” says Michael Behr, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Piedmont. “Your age and wearing high heels or shoes that don’t fit well can also increase your risk.”

How to protect your Achilles tendon from injury

“I recommend stretching and doing strengthening exercises for the foot and ankle,” says Dr. Behr. “It’s also crucial to warm up before exercising and to wear shoes that fit well.”

How is Achilles tendinitis treated?

“Even if you do everything right, sometimes you can still develop Achilles tendinitis,” he explains. “Good habits will reduce your risk and help you work through it.”

The most common treatment options are physical therapy and the RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) method. You may also find relief for a more stubborn injury by wearing heel inserts in your shoes that give your heel a slight elevation. These inserts can be found at most drugstores.

In more severe cases, you may need to wear a boot for four to six weeks. On rare occasions, some people may need surgery.

“Once your symptoms are gone, you can resume the activities you were doing,” adds Dr. Behr.

When to see a doctor for Achilles tendon pain

“Most Achilles tendon pain can be treated at home, but you should go to the doctor right away if you hear something pop or tear, or if you can’t walk,” he says.

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