Achilles Tendon Disorders
The Achilles is the strongest tendon in your body and is responsible for much of your ability to run, jump, walk, change direction, and basically move! As strong as it is, though, it is not immune to overuse and injury. There are a number of issues that can occur from an overworked or under-stretched Achilles, ranging from a minor strain to an all-out rupture. Knowing the causes can help to prevent the problems, and knowing the symptoms can help get you the treatment you need.
Causes of Achilles Injuries
Overuse -- Achilles tendon troubles are often associated with athletes as they put their feet through a lot of repetitive stress. Doing the same activities over and over, increasing intensity and duration of workouts too quickly, and not warming up prior to participation, can all place too much stress on the tendon. An overuse injury can result in the form of tendinitis. Because the tendon is being continually irritated, tiny tears in the fibrous tissues develop and cause pain and inflammation, especially during activity. You may experience less strength and range of motion as well. Achilles tendinitis can be treated with RICE: Rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Anti-inflammatory medication can help as well, and stretches can aid in preventing future problems. Be sure not to jump back into activity too soon!
Tightness – A tight Achilles or calf can easily pull and become strained. It’s important to keep your Achilles tendon and the calf muscles to which it attaches limber. Warming up and stretching are essential to avoid injury as well as other issues that can arise, such as fallen arches, pronation problems, ball of foot pain, heel pain, and more.
Repeat Injuries – Repetitive trauma to the Achilles tendon and failed healing leads to tendinosis -- a chronic loss of collagen which inhibits fibers from reconnecting in correct alignment. This weakens the tendon and makes it even more vulnerable to recurring problems. This is typically treated with rest, ice, massage, and physical therapy stretches.
Sudden Force – While tendinitis tends to happen gradually, an Achilles tendon rupture occurs suddenly, often with sharp pain and a popping sound. Swelling, bruising, and an inability to flex, point, or put weight on your foot are all telltale signs that the tendon has torn. In this case, you will likely need surgery, keep your foot immobilized with a cast, and later partake in physical therapy to restore function, range of motion and strength. This is a serious injury and will take quite a bit of time to heal.
Common Achilles Tendon Disorders Include:
- Achilles Tendon Rupture
- Equinus (Achilles Contracture)
- Haglund's Deformity (Retrocalcaneal Exostosis)
- Insertional Achilles Tendinitis
- Mid-Substance Achilles Tendinitis
- Retrocalcaneal Bursitis
- Retrocalcaneal Heel Spur
Treatment & Prevention for Tendon Problems
Fortunately, there are ways you can keep your Achilles tendon out of trouble. Make sure you are wearing shoes that fit well, offer plenty of support, and are appropriate for the activity. Orthotics can help with pronation and other foot problems that may be making your Achilles prone to problems. Be sure to warm up and train properly, too, and increase exercise slowly, limiting uneven terrain and hills.
If you start to experience pain and swelling in the back of your heel, stop what you’re doing, and schedule a visit so we can assess your Achilles tendon and get you on the proper treatment plan. Call (512) 593-2949 to reach our Cedar Park or Round Rock, TX office. We’ll get you back to jumping, running, walking, changing directions, and moving as quickly as possible!