Injuring your Achilles tendon can happen to anyone, whether you are an athlete, or just an active person going about your everyday life. The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in your body, located at the back of your ankle, which attaches your calf muscles to the heel bone. It is a springy band of tissue, giving us the ability to flex and point your toes toward the floor and raise up on your tiptoes.
We use the Achilles tendon to jump, walk, run, and carry out a multitude of functions, including standing on our own two feet. Continuous physical activity and wear and tear on the feet can cause foot pain and inflammation, resulting in the development of a condition called Achilles tendonitis.
Achilles tendinitis can also occur due to wearing poor fitting and unsupportive shoes, getting older, straining the calf muscles during repeated exercise or physical activity, including sports such as tennis or basketball, that require quick stops and changes of direction, dancing, and commonly occurs when one exercises without stretching properly. The abrupt action and overuse can be too much for the tendon to handle, and can lead to an Achilles tear.
Symptoms of an injured Achilles tendon includes:
- Discomfort or swelling in the back of your heel
- Tight calf muscles
- Limited range of motion when flexing your foot
- Skin on your heel overly warm to the touch
Injury to your Achilles tendon can cause severe foot pain, as the tendon is connected through to the heel bone. When injured, the function and mobility of the entire foot can become compromised. In other words, since our feet are our foundation for support and stability, an injured Achilles tendon may cause trouble pointing your toes and pushing off your toes when you take a step. The most obvious sign of injury to the Achilles tendon is pain in the back or above your heel, especially when you stretch your ankle or stand on your toes.
Pain in the tendon may be mild and get better or worse over time. Immediate attention of the problem should be made aware to an orthopedist, so further complications don’t arise, such as a torn tendon or a sudden fall. If the tendon ruptures, you may hear a snapping or popping noise when it happens, and the pain is instant and severe. The area may also feel tender, swollen, and stiff.
To diagnose Achilles tendonitis, your doctor will ask you a few questions about the pain and swelling in your heel or calf. Your doctor may ask you to stand on the ball of your foot while they observe your range of motion and flexibility. Treatment such as medication, physical therapy, or compression can be administered, and in the case where these unconventional forms of treatment do not work, surgery may be necessary to repair your Achilles tendon.
To learn more about the Achilles tendon, and how treatment can help save you from having other problems such as foot pain, call Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland at (410) 644-1880, or request an appointment online.