Feeling Frustrated by achilles tendonitis, heel spur and equinus!

by Kerry

My pain started the end of March, 2012. The pain is behind my heel, not in the bottom. I had injured my heel in 2003 but ignored (I know, but I had a baby, a toddler and a 6 year old- I had no time to be off my feet!).

I went to the med center for the pain in March and was told anti-inflammatories, ice and stretching. I was told to keep up with regular activity so it did not tighten more.

After giving it over a month and I was still in pain with some swelling I went to my internist. He ordered an x-ray but had no other ideas. The x-ray showed a heel spur so they sent me to a foot and ankle specialist.

Specialist diagnosed me with Achilles tendonitis and equinus deformity of the foot. Apparently my large calves, wide feet and bouncing walk should have clued someone else in years ago but they did not. So I have had tight achilles for a long time. The specialist gave me one option- physical therapy. He also scared me- I was told that I could rupture my tendons at any time because they are so tight.

Went to physical therapist who measured my movement (which turned out to be less than 1%) and agreed I had very tight achilles. She told me to avoid being kicked in the leg or being hit from behind.

She started me on a stretching regime. After just 2 days I had a set back.

My heel began burning and was hot to the touch, I was unable to put any weight on my heel for 2 days. The PT was scaled back to just active stretches without any weight bearing stretches. She also recommended no standing for the weekend and lots of ice.

Now 4 days past the last set back, my heel is still very swollen. The past two days it has been so swollen that it feels flabby when I walk. There is a red mark exactly where the sore spot is. I have been icing it 4-5 times a day for 20+ minutes. I can now put weight on it but it still is painful.

I would love to know
1. How effective is physical therapy for my issues?
2. How long might it take before the pain and swelling subside?
3. Am I hurting myself more by continuing physical therapy- I am doing just what I am told but feel frustrated by the backwards slide rather than making it feel better.

Any suggestions, help, support- anything would be appreciated. I feel so alone in this as I don't know anyone else who has had this issue. I am feeling frustrated.


Joshua Answers:

Hi Kerry.

1. How effective is physical therapy for my issues?

In general my response is always 'not very'. In your specific case, it's 'not very, obviously'.

2. How long might it take before the pain and swelling subside?

Forever, unless you effectively reverse the problem.

3. Am I hurting myself more by continuing physical therapy-

It depends on your definition of 'hurting'. Pain levels are up, yes.

Are you injuring yourself? Probably not. Are you irritating an already irritated dynamic? Absolutely.

Should your doctor be ashamed for telling you you could have a rupture at any moment? Yes. Your doctor has no way of knowing that.

When doctors say things like that, symptoms get worse. Funny how it works that way.

So. You definitely have Achilles Tendonitis.

You have a Bone Spur dynamic in place. The good news is, despite what doctors and PT's will tell you, bone spurs aren't the cause of pain etc. The forces that cause bone spurs are.

You're now afraid of a Achilles Tendon Rupture.

Will stretching work? I doubt it. Stretching forces things apart, and, the things that are limber move, and the things that aren't limber don't, so you're really not targeting what you want to target.

This is relevant: Achilles Tendon Stretching:

Will icing for 20 minutes a time work? It may lower pain levels, but it's FAR less efficient than what you'll do when you learn How To Reduce Inflammation.

Chances are very high that after and because of child rearing (among other reasons), you're definitely suffering from nutritional insufficiency/deficiency.

See: Magnesium for Tendonitis

As far as feeling along, I feel ya there. But do know that there are TONS of people in your basically the same situation. They're all alone too, going through the same doctor/pt scenario, and doing their best to get through the day.

There are answers and helpful things to do. This is a good place to start.

Update me what's been happening since you originally wrote this.

Please reply using the comment link below. Do not submit a new submission to answer/reply, it's too hard for me to find where it's supposed to go.

And, comments have a 3,000 character limit so you may have to comment twice.

Joshua Tucker, B.A., C.M.T.
The Tendonitis Expert

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Feb 01, 2015
Update again, almost three years since surgery
by: Kerry

Sadly the first surgery was not successful. Instead it left me with a TON of scar tissue, a mangled Achilles tendon and only a partial detachment of my Achilles with my other calf muscles. I am unable to be on my feet much longer than 45 minutes at a time without significant rest, which makes visiting Disney a challenge.

After going back to my original foot doctor, all he could suggest was more physical therapy, which I did faithful try once again. After spending a lot of money, the physical therapist finally admitted nothing could be done. I figured I was just doomed to live like this.

I have found an orthopedic surgeon who has suggested surgery once again, going in to get rid of all the damaged tissue, possibly replacing damaged tendon with a healthy one, removing the heel spur that has once again been created and finishing up the detachment that was never fully done. Since this doctor has come highly recommended from several friends and acquaintances, I am hopeful that maybe this time I can have successful results.


Joshua Comments:

Hi Kerry.

I hope it goes better than the first one.

Here's some questions for your surgeon.

Quiz Your Doctor

Jan 06, 2013
Update 6 months post surgery
by: Kerry

I have to agree that my leg is no longer anything like my other leg and will never be the same. I still agree that what I ended up deciding, to have surgery, was still the correct one. Pain levels are still lower than what they were prior to surgery and I am able to stand for much longer periods.

I did not have any further PT after surgery. I still hobble and limp but as you stated, my lower leg has been totally reconstructed. I walk much slower due to the limp as well- which frustrates my husband. I am working to strengthen my weaker right leg as much as I am able to. I am hoping to be able to walk a bit faster as well for longer periods of time by the fall when we plan on taking a vacation which will require LOTS of walking.

This has definitely been a struggle and challenge. I am just now hoping that I never have issues with my left leg which still has a very tight achilles tendon as well as the equinus. I know there is also a spur on that heel. Thanks for your help and support!

When searching for what I was experiencing, it was very difficult to find anything like what I was experiencing.


Joshua Comments:

Hi Kerry.

You're welcome, my pleasure.

So that's good you're mobile and while it's a pain, you can get about with your life. That's a huge plus, despite the downsides.

I'm a big fan of saying 'no way' to phrases like and "...will never be the same"

It will take work, but most any soft tissue issue can be molded back to a more better scenario.

Nutrition, get inflammation out, self massage of too tight tissue to make it not too tight/short.

Thanks for the update!

Jul 29, 2012
Update on my experience
by: Kerry

Well just a couple days after writing this...and doing 3 more sessions at PT, as I was walking into the kitchen I heard a loud snap! I did not rupture the entire achilles but had severe charley horse cramps in my calf if I tried to stand too long. Of course it was right before Memorial Day Weekend. Called Doctor's office and was told to stay off as much as possible and no more PT until I saw Doctor.

Went and saw Doctor on Tuesday and ooopps- he forgot to prescribe a CAM walker for me. So into a CAM walker I went and I decided then to just schedule surgery. After a three week stint in the CAM walker, there was absolutely not change in the tightness of my Achilles. Doctor wasn't all that surprised.

Had surgery on June 27, 2012 with a removal of the heel spur and had my achilles reattached higher on my heel plus had the achilles unattached from other muscle in my calf. The most painful thing so far was when I fell and put full weight on my injured foot twice within the first week. Otherwise I have some cramping in my calf and occasional stinging pain in my heel. Worse thing was looking the the staples in my foot. It took me a long time before I could actually look or touch it!

So I am now almost 5 weeks post surgery. I have another 1-2 weeks of non weight bearing and lots of work to do. My leg looks drastically different from the healthy one. Hoping it doesn't say so drastically different forever. Other leg has similar issues but no pain at the moment. Hoping to have far less pain and less injuries in the future!


Joshua Comments:

Hi Kerry.

Good luck with all that! It's definitely going to take some work, and as they've restructured your entire lower leg, it's not going to be the same as it was. The question is, how good will it be able to get.

Get on the Magnesium, I say. Magnesium for Tendonitis

That will help in a variety of ways, and may help reduce the cramping if you take enough.

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