Achilles Pain and Injuries
What Are Common Conditions and Injuries to the Achilles Tendon?
The Achilles tendon, one of the longest in the body, stretches from your heel to your calf muscles. You can feel the springy band of tissue at the back of your ankle and above your heel. The tendon allows you to extend your foot and point your toes to the floor. Tendinitis, a condition that causes inflammation, swelling, and pain in a tendon, leads to many injuries to the Achilles tendon. Severe Achilles tendon injuries, caused by too much force on the tendon, include partial tears and full ruptures. Most injuries to the Achilles tendon present pain along the back of your foot and above your heel, especially when stretching your ankle or standing on your toes. Tendinitis typically begins with mild pain or discomfort that worsens gradually. If you rupture or tear the tendon, pain can be abrupt and severe. Other symptoms of an Achilles tendon injury include:
- Hearing a snapping or popping noise during the injury
- Difficulty flexing your foot or pointing your toes (in complete tears of the tendon)
What Causes Achilles Tendon Injuries?
The Achilles tendon can be injured during a variety of activities, from wearing high heeled shoes, or from repetitive use or pressure on the tendon. Patients with flat feet are more likely to develop an Achilles tendon issue because the lower foot arch pulls on the tendon. When the muscles of the calf and leg are tight, they will pull on the Achilles which can lead to pain and injury. Achilles tendon injuries are also common sports injuries because of the repetitive strain and the sudden movements and directional changes.
How Are Achilles Tendon Injuries Treated?
While most injuries to the Achilles tendon heal on their own with rest, our podiatrists may suggest laser treatments to provide pain relief while healing the tendon and surrounding muscles. Laser treatment stimulates circulation in the treated area, which brings much needed oxygen and nutrients to the injured tendon and surrounding tissues. The improved circulation stimulates the body’s natural healing process. The laser treatment relieves inflammation and swelling, which provides the immediate pain relief that patients with painful injuries are looking for.
What is an Achilles tendon rupture?
A rupture occurs when the tendon fibers separate or tear and are no longer able to function normally. This typically occurs at a point on the tendon that’s approximately 2 1/2 inches above the heel bone. The most common cause is extreme and sudden dorsiflexion (when the toes move up toward the shinbone) or plantar flexion (when the toes move down toward the sole of your foot). This causes the tendon to tear as it’s stretched far beyond its normal range of motion.
An Achilles tendon rupture can occur suddenly in activities such as basketball, tennis, and other similar sports. It may also occur over time as the fibers stretch and fray during repetitive activities or sports and eventually snap.
A fall into a hole or even stepping off a curb at an odd angle can also cause a sudden Achilles rupture. Slicing through the tendon, which might occur during an auto accident or other traumatic event, also causes abrupt disruption of the Achilles.
What are the symptoms?
Patients often note a loud popping or snapping sound at the time of rupture. Other symptoms may include:
- Significant pain in the lower leg and heel area
- Swelling at the site of the tear that may eventually affect the entire foot
- Inability to bend your foot downward or push off the injured leg when you walk
- Inability to stand on your toes
What is the treatment?
Most Achilles tendon ruptures are treated surgically. National Foot & Ankle Center may recommend a minimally invasive surgery that uses small incisions or an open procedure that requires a large incision on the back of your leg. If you’re over 50, less active, or unable to undergo surgery for some reason, we may recommend conservative treatment. Nonsurgical treatment typically involves wearing a special walking boot with a heel lift that essentially keeps the edges of your tendon in contact with one another so that they heal naturally.
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Last updated: Jan 14, 2020 4:13 am