Achilles pain is no joke. In fact, Greek mythology refers to the downfall of the fierce and dominant warrior Achilles, brought down by an arrow that struck his heel. Ring a bell? If you have Achilles tendon pain, you need to contact your doctor as soon as you can. Not only can it take a long time to heal, there’s a chance you’ll need some type of intervention to move things along anyway.
The Many Causes of Achilles Tendon Injuries
There are many causes for Achilles tendon injuries, and for good reason. The Achilles tendon is a relatively narrow, but tough tendon that links your calf muscles to your heel bone. Think of how much you use your calf muscles and heel bones. That’s a lot of stress to put on one tendon! Achilles tendon injuries are often caused by sudden movement, such as starting a race or jumping – the sudden tension on the muscle in these cases is too much for the tendon to handle. Here are some other causes for Achilles tendon pain:
- Overuse leading to tendonitis
- Not properly warming up before exercise
- Wearing high heels
- Flexibility issues in the legs
- Increasing the level of sport or physical activity you’re participating in too quickly
- Participating in sports like dance, football, tennis, rugby, running, or gymnastics
If you’ve injured your Achilles tendon, you might notice tenderness, pain along the back of your foot or heel, swelling, stiffness, or difficulty flexing your foot or pointing your toes.
Achilles tendon injuries often take a long time to heal – this is why it’s so important to see your doctor. He or she can recommend a treatment plan for you to follow, and examine you to assure the injury isn’t more severe – as in torn. Your doctor may order X-rays, an ultra sound, or an MRI to determine your specific injury.
If the tendon isn’t torn, your doctor may recommend one or a combination of the following nonsurgical treatments:
- Icing the tendon after exercise
- Compressing the tendon by using an athletic wrap or surgical tape
- Elevating the ankle
- Wearing heel lifts
- Using a night splint
- Wearing a walking boot or walking cast
- Physical therapy
If the tendon has ruptured, the recommended treatment may be surgery, followed by a cast or walking boot and physical therapy.
Preventing Achilles Tendons Problems
To avoid problems with your Achilles tendons, warm up before exercise. Vary your exercises and slowly increase the length and intensity of workouts. Keep your muscles active and stay in shape year-round.
Dr. Alade is a board-certified Orthopedic Surgeon at Kelsey-Seybold’s Berthelsen Main Campus and Spring Medical and Diagnostic Center. His expertise is in major foot and ankle surgery, including reconstruction and repair of trauma, arthritis, bunions, and other foot deformities. His experience also includes serious foot problems caused by diabetes and peripheral vascular disease.