Achilles Tendon Injury

Achilles Tendon Injury

The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in your body. It stretches from the bones of your heel to your calf muscles. You can feel it — a springy band of tissue at the back of your ankle and above your heel. Unfortunately, it’s pretty common for this tendon to get injured. It could be mild or moderate and feel like a burning pain or stiffness in that part of your leg. But if it’s severe, it may mean that your Achilles tendon is partly torn or completely ruptured.

Causes. Achilles tendon injuries are most common in sporting activities. These injuries tend to happen when you start moving suddenly, as you push off and lift your foot, rather than when you land. The following are other causes of achilles tendon injuries:

  • You overdo activity.
  • You boost your physical activity level too quickly.
  • You wear high heels, which can stress the tendon.
  • You have “flat feet,” (fallen arches). This means that when you take a step, the impact causes the arch of your foot to collapse, stretching the muscles and tendons.
  • Your leg muscles or tendons are too tight.

Symptoms. The most obvious one is pain above your heel, especially when you stretch your ankle or stand on your toes. It may be mild and get better or worse over time. If the tendon ruptures, the pain is instant and severe. The area may also feel tender, swollen, and stiff. If your Achilles tendon tears, you may hear a snapping or popping noise when it happens. You could have bruising and swelling, too. You may have trouble pointing your toes if the tendon tears completely.

Treatment. Minor to moderate Achilles tendon injuries should heal on their own. You just need to give them time. To speed the healing, you can:

  • Rest your leg. Avoid putting weight on your leg as best you can.
  • Ice it. Ice your injury for 20 to 30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours to reduce pain and swelling. Continue this for 2 or 3 days, or until the pain is gone.
  • Compress your leg. Use an elastic bandage around the lower leg and ankle to keep down swelling.
  • Elevate your leg. Prop your leg up on a pillow when you’re sitting or lying down.
  • Take anti-inflammatory painkillers. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen will help with pain and swelling.
  • Use a heel lift. Your doctor may recommend that you wear an insert in your shoe while you recover. It will help protect your Achilles tendon from further stretching.
  • Practice stretching and strengthening exercises as recommended by your doctor, physical therapist, or other health care provider.

Recovery. It may take months, but it depends on how serious your injury is. Different conditions heal at different rates. Don’t rush things. Do not try to return to your old level of physical activity until:

  • You can move your leg as easily and freely as your uninjured leg.
  • Your leg feels as strong as your uninjured leg.
  • You feel no pain in your leg when you walk, jog, sprint, or jump.

If you push yourself too much before your Achilles tendon injury fully heals, you could get injured again and the pain could become a long-lasting problem. Usually, the above techniques for treating the injury are enough. But in severe cases, you may need a cast for 6 to 10 weeks or even surgery to repair the tendon or remove extra tissue.

To prevent Achilles Tendon injuries, you could try the following:

  • Cut down on uphill running.
  • Wear shoes with good support that fit well.
  • Always boost the intensity of your physical activity slowly.
  • Stop exercising if you feel pain or tightness in the back of your calf or heel.

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“What Is an Achilles Tendon Injury?” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2017.