The Achilles tendon is not only the strongest but also the largest tendon in the human body. The main function is to transmit power from the calf muscles to the heel and the foot.
It’s because of the Achilles tendon that we are able to stand on our toes when walking, running, or jumping. Even with all of its strength, it can be exposed to injury. Due to its limited blood supply and the high tensions placed on it, the Achilles heel can be left vulnerable if harmed.
Possible conditions that may arise due to injury include tears, ruptures, tendinitis, peritendinitis, tendinosis, tendinopathy, and bursitis. When trying to diagnose if one has issues, a podiatrist will commonly check for any pain, swelling, or discoloration around the heel or lower leg area. Different treatments for issues concerning the Achilles tendon vary but may include over-the-counter or prescribed pain relievers for intense discomfort, alternating ice and heat therapy, custom-made orthotics, physical therapy, and in severe cases, surgery. To help prevent injury, it’s recommended to regularly perform stretches involving the muscles of the lower leg.
If you or someone you know is experiencing pain or discomfort involving the Achilles region, seek out the help of a podiatrist for a proper diagnosis and treatment regime.
The Achilles tendon is a strong, thick band of tissue that connects your calf muscles to your heel bone (calcaneus). This tendon lets you point your toes downward and push off the ground when you move your foot. It is one of the most critical tendons in your body because it allows you to perform essential actions like walking, running, jumping, and standing on your tiptoes.
Common Achilles Tendon Injury
Tendonitis: Tendonitis is a condition where a tendon becomes inflamed, and causes pain and swelling. This often occurs due to activities that strain the tendon, like excessive running or jumping.
Tendinosis: Tendinosis is a chronic condition characterized by the degeneration of a tendon. Unlike tendonitis, it involves a breakdown of the tendon tissue. It’s like your tendon slowly losing its strength and elasticity. It can happen due to repetitive stress or aging.
Rupture: A tendon rupture is a severe injury where the tendon tears completely. It typically happens suddenly, often due to a forceful movement or overexertion. When the Achilles tendon ruptures, it feels like a sharp, stabbing pain. You may have difficulty walking or moving the affected foot.
Symptoms of Achilles Tendon Injury
Pain: This can range from mild discomfort to severe agony. It often feels like aching or a sharp, stabbing sensation. The pain can make it challenging to walk or move your ankle.
Swelling: When your Achilles tendon is injured, the area around it might puff up and feel tender when touched. Swelling is your body’s way of responding to the injury and starting the healing process.
Stiffness: An injured Achilles tendon can lead to stiffness in your ankle. This stiffness can make simple movements, like pointing your toes or bending your ankle, difficult and uncomfortable.
Hearing a “Pop”: You may hear a snapping or popping sound when the injury happens. This is often followed by sudden and intense pain.
Warmth and Redness: In more severe cases with significant inflammation, the skin around the injured area may feel warm to the touch and might appear slightly red.
Physical Examination: The first step in diagnosing an Achilles tendon injury is a thorough physical examination by a healthcare professional. They will check for swelling, tenderness, and any visible changes in the Achilles tendon’s appearance.
Range of Motion Tests: To evaluate the extent of your injury, your healthcare provider may ask you to move your foot and ankle in different ways. This helps them understand how the injury is affecting mobility.
Ultrasound: Ultrasound may be used to create images of the Achilles tendon. It’s used to assess the extent of the injury and the presence of any tears.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): An MRI provides detailed images of the Achilles tendon that helps to identify the location and severity of the injury.
Rest: The first and often most crucial step in treating an Achilles tendon injury is rest. This means taking a break from activities that strain the tendon. It will give your tendon a chance to heal.
Ice: Applying ice to the injured area can help reduce pain and swelling. Ice packs will calm down the inflammation. Apply it for 15 minutes whenever you feel pain for quick relief.
Compression: Some people find relief by gently wrapping the injured area with a compression bandage. This can help control swelling and provide support to the tendon.
Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen may help manage pain and reduce inflammation. Always follow the recommended dosage and consult with a healthcare provider if needed.
Physical Therapy: A physical therapist can guide you through exercises and stretches to strengthen the Achilles tendon and improve flexibility. It will certainly help you to recover much faster.
Casting or Bracing: In severe cases, simple solutions may not work. Your doctor may recommend a cast or brace. It will immobilize the ankle and allow the tendon to heal properly.
Surgery: For severe ruptures or cases that don’t respond to conservative treatments, surgery may be necessary. Surgeons can repair the torn tendon and restore function. This is only done when other methods are not effective.
How To Prevent Injuries?
Proper Footwear: Wear shoes that fit well and provide good arch support. Proper footwear reduces stress on the Achilles tendon and supports healthy movement. If walking long distances makes your feet ache, you must change your footwear.
Stretching: Regularly stretch your calf muscles and Achilles tendon before physical activities. It is like warming up before a workout. This helps maintain flexibility and reduces the risk of injury.
Cross-Training: Many people make the mistake of combining exercises that overstress the tendon. Make sure you avoid overloading the Achilles tendon by mixing up your activities. For example, if you run frequently, balance it with low-impact activities like swimming or cycling.
Maintain a Healthy Weight: One of the many problems of excess body weight is that it can put added stress on your Achilles tendon. Maintaining a healthy weight reduces the risk of strain and injury.
Footwear for Sports: When participating in sports, ensure you have specialized sports shoes that provide the right support and cushioning for the activity. Different sports require different types of footwear. Not wearing the right gear can cause injury.
When to Seek Help?
In some cases, your Achilles tendon pain will go away after a little rest and care. However, that is not always the case. If you experience persistent discomfort, do not hesitate to seek medical advice from Bayshore Podiatry Center. We are available at (813) 877-6636.