What Causes Achilles Tendon Pain?

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  • Written By: S. Reynolds
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2018
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The Achilles tendon is located at the back of the leg, and runs from the ankle to calf. It is a large, strong muscle that powers activities such as walking, running, and playing sports. There are two common reasons for Achilles tendon pain — tendinitis and a tendon rupture. Acute pain and chronic tendinitis are manageable injuries that can be treated, but a tendon rupture is a serious matter that may require surgery and physical therapy.

Tendinitis is chronic pain caused by a degenerating Achilles tendon. Over the course of many years, overuse of this tendon can cause tissue breakdown, which causes pain, especially just after a sufferer gets up in the morning. Cold muscles and tendons are generally stiff and painful in someone that has injuries.

Achilles tendon pain is usually caused by several factors. Many athletes develop tendinitis after years of heavy wear and tear on their bodies. Runners, basketball players, dancers, tennis players, and sprinters are some of the people who often develop this condition.

Another reason for tendinitis can be wearing shoes that elevate the heels for long periods of time. Women who wear tight, high heels for many years can develop pain the Achilles tendon. People who are constantly on their feet can also cause wear and tear to their Achilles area. Leg and foot pain typically develops gradually in these cases.


Achilles tendon pain caused by a rupture is a major injury. When a partial rupture happens, a person might feel extreme pain, but might still be able to walk around a little bit. The leg and foot may swell and feel painful to the touch. When a full rupture occurs, the tendon actually snaps from the bone, causing massive, immediate pain. Ruptures can occur when a person moves around quickly, such as when playing sports.

A person will not usually be able to walk with a ruptured tendon. In fact, a ruptured tendon often requires surgery to repair it. Tendons can take a long time to heal, so physical therapy might be necessary to regain the full range of motion and flexibility.

A person can tell the difference between tendinitis, a partial rupture, and a full rupture by performing a few simple steps. If the person can stand on his or her toes, the tendon is probably partially torn, but not ruptured. Sudden Achilles tendon pain indicates a tear, but gradual or minor pain is most likely tendinitis. A visit to a doctor can diagnose the problem with an MRI or x-ray exam.



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