What is an Achilles Tendon Tear / Achilles Tendinitis?
The Achilles tendon is the name for the thick band of connective tissue that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone, the calcaneus. Ligaments connect bone to bone and tendons connect muscle to bone. In Achilles tendon pain, it is a muscle to bone connection that is problematic.
There are two muscles that are located in the calf and are so important in walking. These are the gastrocnemius and the soleus – which lies underneath the gastroc. Together, these are generally referred to as the Gastroc/Soleus Complex. These muscles converge at the bottom of the lower leg and form the Achilles tendon which in turn attaches onto the heel bone. When this tendon is torn or otherwise damaged, the severity of injury will determine the best treatment strategy which may be surgical intervention, especially in the case of a complete tear.
What causes an Achilles Tendon Tear?
An Achilles tendon tear is often the result of overuse when excessive force is placed on the tendon causing it to be stretched beyond its limits. A torn Achilles tendon may also result from a trauma involving the back of the ankle. Such cause of a torn Achilles can include:
- Excessive running or walking beyond what you are used to
- High impact sports that involve a lot of jumping
- Falling from a significant height
- Tripping or stepping into a divot in the ground
- Direct trauma to the back of the ankle
The injury usually occurs as the foot is pointed downward lifting your body off of the ground.
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Symptoms of a Torn Achilles Tendon
The Achilles tendon is of crucial importance in walking and when it is damaged, you will almost always know it immediately. As said above, the calf muscles, which insert into the Achilles tendon are responsible for pointing your toes and lifting the entire weight of the body off the ground. You may hear a ‘popping’ sound at the time of injury with an intense pain at the back of your ankle or in your calf. Other symptoms may include:
- Swelling, erythema (reddening of skin), and a feeling of warmth to the area
- An inability to walk correctly, a limp will present on the side of the affected ankle as you will be unable to bear weight on that side
If You Are Experiencing Symptoms, Schedule an Appointment Dr. Burke Orthopedics Immediately.
How to Prevent an Achilles Tendon Tear
Prevention of this injury involves strengthening not only the calf muscles, but all other muscles of the leg and foot in order to improve any muscular imbalances. Prevention methods include:
- Strength training of the leg musculature that will strengthen not only the muscles but the tendons as well, preparing them to provide and protect against greater force
- Stretching of leg muscles frequently in order to maintain flexibility
- Properly warming up before engaging in vigorous activity
- Wearing proper footwear and replacing your shoes regularly
- Losing weight if you are overweight in order to decrease the strain placed on the muscle
- Varying your exercise routine so as not perform the same motions over and over leading to overuse