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HSS Orthopedic Surgeon Addresses Common Achilles Injuries For Runners

Dr. Andrew Elliott of Hospital for Special Surgery.
Dr. Andrew Elliott of Hospital for Special Surgery. Photo Credit: Hospital for Special Surgery

PARAMUS, N.J. -- Spring presents a great opportunity to get out and go for a run. However, the repetitive motion and constant pounding of the pavement can aggravate the Achilles tendon and cause discomfort and injury. Dr. Andrew Elliott, foot and ankle surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery answered runners' questions surrounding the troublesome ligament.

I’m a runner and have heel pain that won’t go away. How does a doctor determine if it’s my Achilles?

An examination can usually determine if it is your Achilles or a different problem that is causing pain. Sometimes an MRI might be necessary if the exam is inconclusive.

I’m an active runner. Are there ways I can prevent myself from rupturing my Achilles tendon?

Stretching before and after activity may help prevent an Achilles rupture. Also, many of the running shoes these days have a slightly more elevated heel, which can take strain off the tendon. Varying your workout and cross training may help avoid overuse syndromes that can lead to tendon problems. In some patients, fluoroquinolone antibiotic medications may be associated with raising the risk of tendonosis and ruptures, so if you can avoid taking these drugs that may also help.

I have Achilles tendonitis, but I’m concerned that it could become more serious. Am I at a higher risk for an Achilles rupture?

Tendonitis is a normal tendon that is inflamed and should not put you at a higher risk for an Achilles rupture. However, tendonosis involves some degeneration of the tendon that can be painful. Tendonosis may put you at a higher risk for rupture.

What are my treatment options for a ruptured Achilles tendon?

Repairing the Achilles with open surgery (three- to four-inch long incision) or minimally invasive (one-inch incision) are two ways that may fix the tendon. Depending on the type of rupture, and the time from rupture to treatment, using a specially designed boot may also allow the tendon to repair itself.

Dr. Andrew Elliott is an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in minimally invasive achilles tendon repair and arthroscopy and arthritis of the foot and ankle. He practices at both the HSS Outpatient Center in Paramus and the hospital’s main campus in New York.