Injuries to the Achilles tendon, the tendon behind your ankle, are common, especially in athletes.
Podiatrist Physicians and surgeons such as Dr. Superstein and Dr. Bouldin are specialists who treat this condition.
The Achilles tendon is very large and very strong. It is the strongest tendon in your body. The Achilles tendon connects your calf muscle to the heel bone (calcaneous) in your foot.
The Achilles tendon helps point the foot and toes to the ground. It helps in all activities – walking, running, jumping, stooping and when using stairs and ladders. Injuries to this tendon are painful and greatly affect walking and mobility.
The two main types of Achilles injuries are tendonitis and tears. Tendonitis is painful swelling of the tendon tissue. Achilles tears are either partial or complete, and these are caused by too much force pulling on the tendon.
Causes of Achilles injuries are overuse, increasing physical activity levels too quickly, and not stretching before exercise. These injuries commonly happen to “weekend warriors” who may not be all that physically active during the week, but exercise heavily on the weekend. This pattern makes the person very prone to injury. High impact sports, for example, running and basketball, commonly result in Achilles injuries.
Symptoms of Achilles tendon injuries depend on the nature of the injury. Tendonitis may feel like pain along the back of the ankle and above the heel. This pain may be greater when you stand on your toes, and it may worsen with time. Tendonitis also is associated with swelling behind the ankle and stiffness when you point your toes to the ground.
Rupturing the Achilles tendon causes immediate and severe pain, with swelling behind the ankle following shortly. A tearing or popping sound might be heard during the injury, and in complete tears the foot won’t be able to point toward the ground at all.
Treatment of these injuries also depends on the nature of the injury. Mild injuries like tendonitis can be treated with rest, icing the area, compression with an elastic bandage, elevating the area, taking anti-inflammatory medications and a walking boot. More invasive treatments are needed if the tendon injury is severe, such as in complete rupture. These include surgical repair of the tendon, a cast on the leg for about 6 weeks, or both.
Once the tendon is healed, it is important to very gradually increase activity levels. Stretching is also extremely important. It may be beneficial to initially participate in sports or activities that do not place as much stress on the tendon like swimming.
Custom foot orthotics are often utilized by Dr Superstein and Dr Bouldin to help prevent Achilles injuries from recurrence.