The Achilles tendon is one of the long tendons in the body that spans the bones of the heel up to the muscles in the calf. It is a spring-like band of tissue at the rear part of the ankle and above the heel. It allows you to extend the foot as well as pointing the toes to the floor. On the other hand, it is one of the commonly injured tendons. Most of the Achilles tendon injuries are caused by tendinitis in which the tendon becomes painful and swollen. In severe cases, excessive force on the tendon can cause either a partial or complete rupture.
Causes of Achilles tendon injuries
- Not properly stretching before an exercise routine
- Abruptly increasing the level of physical activity
- Using high heels among women which increases the stress on the tendon
- Anatomical problems with the feet such as flat feet in which the impact of each step causes the arch of the foot to collapse, thus stretching the muscles and tendons
- Muscles or tendons in the leg that are too tight
An individual is likely to tear the Achilles tendon when moving abruptly. The sudden strain of the muscle might be too great for the tendon to manage. Additionally, even men beyond 30 years old are also at risk for Achilles tendon injuries.
Symptoms of an Achilles tendon injury
- Pain alongside the rear part of the foot and directly above the heel particularly when the ankle is stretched or when standing using the toes.
- Popping or snapping sound during the injury
- Difficulty flexing the foot or pointing the toes
When diagnosing an Achilles tendon injury, the healthcare provider will conduct a physical exam. The way the individual walks or run will be assessed to check for problems that might contribute to the injury.
Treatment for Achilles tendon injuries
Slight to moderate Achilles tendon injuries usually heal without any treatment but must be given enough time. There are first aid measures that can help speed up the healing process.
- Rest the affected leg by avoiding any weight if possible. In some cases, crutches might be required.
- Apply an ice pack or cold compress on the leg in order to minimize the pain and swelling for 20-30 minutes for 3-4 times in a day or until the pain subsides.
- Compress the affected leg by using an elastic bandage around the lower leg and ankle to minimize the swelling.
- Elevate the leg by propping on a pillow or cushion when the individual is sitting or lying down.
- Provide over-the-counter medications to minimize the pain and swelling.
- Utilize a heel lift if recommended by your doctor. This is inserted in the shoe during the recovery process and protects the Achilles tendon from further injury.
- Encourage the individual to perform stretching and strengthening exercises.
These measures work for minor to moderate Achilles tendon injuries. As for the severe cases, it would require the individual to wear a cast for 6-10 weeks or even surgery in order to repair the tendon or remove excess tissue.