Achilles Tendinopathy Diagnosis


Diagnosing an Achilles Tendon Injury

The doctor will palpate your Achilles tendon to assess pain and abnormalities to make a diagnosis of your injury.

Diagnosis will probably involve a localized physical exam and possibly a series of diagnostic tests. To help ensure a proper diagnosis, your physician will begin with a medical history about you, your current condition and symptoms, the intensity of your pain, the duration of your symptoms and any limitations of movement you are experiencing. Details about what caused the problem, when it started, and whether or not you have ever had treatments (for this or a similar condition in the past) are very helpful in assessing your injury.

Your doctor will visually assess and palpate (feel) the bones and soft tissue in and around both of your Achilles tendons to evaluate symmetry and spot any differences. Differences could include inflammation, swelling, bone deformity, scar tissue build up, and a weakened tendon. He/she will press on the injured tendon to test for tenderness, tough nodules (scar tissue), and jelly-like sections on the tendon (common in tendonosis). They may ask you to push down with the ball of your foot and toes (plantarflexion) to evaluate the flexibility, alignment, range of motion and pain level.


Common Diagnostic Tests for the Achilles Tendon

Diagnostic testing to obtain more detailed information, and assess the amount and/or type of damage done to your Achilles tendon. There are a variety of different tests available to help them analyze the situation; however the recommendation will be dependent on your injury.

The Thompson Test is a common physical exam that doctors use to determine if an Achilles tendon has ruptured.

This test involves the patient lying face down on the exam table with knees at a 90 degree angle. The doctor squeezes the calf muscles of the injured leg. If the foot flexes downward (like trying to point your toes) the Achilles tendon is not torn. If the Achilles tendon is torn, the foot does not move.

The doctor will use The Thompson Test to determine if the Achilles tendon is ruptured. When the calf muscles are squeezed, the foot should go into plantarflexion if the Achilles tendon is intact.

X-rays don't show much relative to tendons and other soft tissue but it will provide an image of the overall bone structure of your ankle. It is helpful in identifying bone spurs, calcifications within the tendon, fractures or degeneration of the heel bone.

CAT or CT scans can be used to provide a 3-dimensional assessment of the bones and soft tissues in and around your Achilles tendon and may be used to identify a tendon tear.

MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) will provide more detailed information and will help to evaluate the Achilles tendon damage. An MRI can diagnose tendinosis, tissue damage and tears, and/or other associated conditions.

The type of test recommended will depend on your symptoms and the opinion of your medical professional.


Treating an Achilles Tendon Injury

Your doctor will prescribe a series of conservative treatment protocols for you to follow. In most cases, a conservative treatment protocol will be enough to heal the injury, though in cases such as significant tearing or a fully ruptured tendon, you will most probably require surgery. It is generally understood by doctors and surgeons, that surgery will introduce more scar tissue into the any already damaged tissue. This added scar tissue will be problematic, requiring more visits to the PT clinic and conservative treatment options post-surgery. If not dealt with properly, your Achilles tendon injury could end up in worse condition than before the surgery! This is why surgery is only performed as a last resort.

Most doctors, surgeons and orthopedic specialists will recommend conservative treatment methods for Achilles Tendon injuries before even considering surgery. Some conservative treatment methods recommended include:

  • Rest - This is important for initial recovery for both Midpoint and Insertional Achilles Tendonitis; rest and elevation will help reduce pain, swelling and inflammation in the early stages of injury. This can be difficult when you have to carry on with daily activities, but resting and elevating your foot whenever you can is recommended. During your recovery you will probably have to modify or avoid the activities that put stress on your Achilles tendon until your pain and inflammation settles. Too much rest can also be harmful to achilles injuries because ankle joint immobility can actually cause stiffening in the joint. This is why rest should be used when reducing initial pain and swelling, but should not be considered for more long-term conservative treatment.
  • Increase blood flow to your achilles tendon injury.
  • Avoid Activities that Caused Your Injury - While resting your injury it's also important to avoid all activities that may have caused your tissue damage (especially any repetitive movement). Continuing on with regular activities can increase the severity of your injury, turning a mild to moderate case of tendon damage into a downward spiral of worsening damage that may eventually severely impact your life. Also, trying to 'work around' your injury will eventually give rise to over-compensation injuries in other areas of your body.
  • Use a Cold Compress or Ice Pack - Cold is very effective at reducing pain and inflammation - use at the onset of the injury and during flareups.
  • Use Circulation Boost (T•Shellz Wrap®) - after swelling and inflammation has been reduced. You can use your own blood flow to maximize your rehabilitation, maintain healthy blood flow to your achilles and heel, decrease recovery time, and boost the bodys healing rate. Promoting blood flow to your achilles will help to minimize the growth of scar tissue, increase flexibility and help prevent atrophy.
  • Rehabilitative Stretching under supervision of a PT or doctor. The intent of this is to provide you with increased range of motion, pain relief and strengthening of the surrounding tissue of the joint. Doctors or surgeons typically won't perform a surgery until they feel that their patient has put effort into treating their injury with conservative treatment methods. This may include up to 4 to 6 months of visits to a PT clinic. If you haven't experienced any improvement in your condition during that time then surgery may be considered. Agressive PT approaches may focus on forced or manual manipulation of the achilles - this means your physical therapists will be trying to move your achilles past the point of comfort as they strive to increase range of motion and prevent further atrophy. This can be painful and end up making your injury worse if not done correctly. (reference: 1)
  • Stretching - Stretching your joint in PT and at home will help you to regain your range of motion much faster than not stretching at all. Stretching in many ways is key maintaining good Range of Motion (ROM) in your joint, and stretching can be made much easier with use of a T•Shellz Wrap® before to warm up soft tissue, and a Cold Compress or Ice Pack treatment after to prevent any return of swelling and inflammation.


Learn More About Achilles Injuries & Treatments

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During your recovery, you will probably have to modify and/or eliminate any activities that cause pain or discomfort at the location of your soft tissue injury until the pain and inflammation settle. Always consult your doctor and/or Physical Therapist before using any of our outstanding products, to make sure they are right for you and your condition.


 
 

Please be aware that this information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider before using any of our outstanding products to make sure they're right for you and your condition or if you have any questions regarding a medical condition. Always see your doctor for a proper diagnosis as there are often many injuries and conditions (some very serious) that could be the cause of your pain.


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