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Several of the different types of Achilles injury include tendinitis, Achilles bursitis, tendinosis, and tendon rupture. Other conditions include Haglund’s syndrome, a condition affecting both the bursa and tendon, and posterior compartment syndrome, which affects the area close to the Achilles but not the tendon directly.
The most common type of Achilles injury is tendinitis. This injury is usually caused by repetitive strain and is often seen in runners and other athletes. Tendinitis of the Achilles can either be an acute or chronic injury, depending on the length of time it is present. A repetitive strain injury of any kind requires rest from the activity that caused it until the tendon is fully healed, which can take a long time since the blood supply to the area is low.
Achilles tendon bursitis is another Achilles injury that commonly affects runners and others. The bursa is a small fluid sack behind the tendon that lubricates the tendon and bone. If the bursa is rubbed continuously by the tendon, it can become inflamed and cause pain in the heel. The condition is commonly mistaken for tendinitis. If both bursitis and tendinitis occur at the same time, the injury is called Haglund’s syndrome.
A partial Achilles tendon rupture can occur during any activity that puts a large amount of force through the joint. The rupture is often accompanied by a short, sharp pain. An athlete may be able, in general, to continue activity with a partial rupture, only becoming aware of the damage when the tendon cools down.
Full Achilles tendon ruptures are much more serious. A sharp pain and loud noise will often be present with a full rupture, along with a large amount of swelling. This Achilles injury is one of the most feared by athletes, although there is a much greater chance of a full return to activity today with modern medical care than there has been in the past.
Posterior compartment syndrome can be caused by an impact or through overuse. The posterior compartment is a thin piece of tissue that holds the lower leg muscles. If the muscles begin to stretch the tissue, pain can result, often in the Achilles area. Usually, conservative treatments such as icing and sports massage can cure the problem.
Treatment for an Achilles injury depends on the condition. Achilles tendinitis can usually be treated with ice and rest, especially if it is caught early on. Tendinosis, which is a chronic injury that occurs after the inflammation from tendinitis has subsided, may require different treatment, such as sports massage and ultrasound. A full tendon rupture, on the other hand, often requires surgery, especially if the patient is an athlete who wants to return to competition.
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