The Achilles Tendon is the largest tendon in your body and connects both of your calf muscles to your heel bone. It enables you to point your toes and stand on tip-toes.
It also provides the spring to push off from each step when running or walking.
Injuries to this tendon are fairly common, either through overuse or a tendon strain (tear).
Risk factors include:
Age – Men over 30 are more prone to Achilles injuries,
Wearing high heels – Puts more stress through the tendon and shortens the calf muscles,
Training on uneven surfaces – Extra stress on ankle and lower leg,
Increase in exercise amount or intensity – Sudden increases will stress the tendon and muscles,
Tight calf muscles – Pull on the tendon and make it more prone to injury.
Pain in the lower leg, above the heel is the most obvious symptom of an injury to the Achilles tendon, particularly when you point your toes, stand on tiptoes or push off when running. (can also be felt when pushing off the wall in swimming) Often, pain will be noticed when you start to move suddenly, for example, a sprinter at the start of the race or a gymnast jumping onto a piece of equipment.
If the tendon tears, pain will be more intense and there could be bruising and swelling. You will also find it difficult to move your foot.
As with any muscle or tendon strain, minor injuries will heal on their own in a few weeks. It is unlikely that you will need medical attention although a Physiotherapist will be able to advise you on your rehabilitation once the initial pain subsides. Make sure that you rest from the activity that is causing the problem. Replace with a non-load bearing exercise like Swimming or Yoga to maintain your fitness. Self – care should involve frequent, gentle stretching, over the counter anti inflammatory drugs (if necessary) and rest of the injured leg. Massage and foam rolling can also help to improve the blood flow and aid healing.
A total tendon rupture will require medical treatment and may need surgery to re-attach or replace the tendon. This injury will take months to heal and will need specialist physical therapy and rehab exercises.
If you have any questions or want to discuss any minor sports injury, please get in touch.