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Overuse injury of tendon: Achilles Tendinitis

Q: I feel pain in the back of my leg when I try to run. What's going on?

A: If you have swelling or a lump in your Achilles tendon – the area on the back of your leg just above your heel – you may be experiencing Achilles tendinitis. Read more about Achilles Tendon Problems on our Dartmouth-Hitchcock Healthwise® Health Encyclopedia website.

This injury results from an overuse of the tendon or a partial tear; this condition is characterized by:

  • Pain when you try to run
  • Swelling or a lump over the back of the heel, between 6-8 cm (approximately 2-3 inches) from where the tendon inserts to the heel bone

Questions to ask yourself include:

  • Have I just begun a running program?
  • Have I increased the mileage I run recently?
  • Have I been running at greater intensity recently?
  • Have I changed my running shoes recently?

Q: What do I do now that I have injured myself?

A: Dr. Hecht recommends "relative rest" as the best treatment. In other words, ease back on the activities that caused the injury, and do something else for a while:

  • Cross-train on a bicycle, rowing machine, or elliptical trainer
  • Begin or resume lower-impact activities such as stretching or strengthening exercises

Q: I have tried to change my exercise habits but the pain won't go away. What now?

A: If your symptoms don't go away or improve after two or three weeks, seek professional advice. You may need to see your primary care doctor, a specialist certified in sports medicine, or a physical therapist.

Dr. Hecht explains that orthopaedic surgeons try not to do a surgical procedure for this kind of injury unless there is a chronic tear of the tendon.

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