A tendon is a band of tissue that connects muscle to bone. The Achilles tendon, also called the heel cord, connects leg muscles to the heel bone, allowing you to walk and run. Achilles tendonitis is a common injury among runners, but may also occur in people with pronated feet, high arches, tight calf muscles and those who wear inflexible running shoes. Overuse of the Achilles tendon at the back of the heel occurs in the case of dancers, runners and walkers who exert a lot of stress on the tendon during their activities. It is a very painful condition and if one continues to put pressure on the tendon, it may snap, often with a loud popping sound.
The primary symptom of an Achilles tendon injury is pain to the back of the heel, which increases with exercise and lessens when exercise stops. Achilles tendonitis also manifests itself with warmth, swelling and tenderness at the site. Range of motion may be limited. Achilles tendonitis can lead to small tears in the tendon, making it susceptible to rupture, however rupture may also take place without any previous Achilles tendon problems. If any of these symptoms occur, it is best to rest and elevate the leg while icing it and of course, see us or doctor as early as possible. Achilles tendon ruptures are most often seen among middle-aged people who play a sport on weekends or in their spare time.
- Sudden pain in the back of the ankle which feels like a kick or a stab. It may turn into a dull ache.
- Swelling between the heel and the calf.
- Difficulty walking or rising up on the toes.
A rupture may be treated surgically or non-surgically, depending on the extent of the damage and your condition. Until you can get professional help, the RICE formula should be applied:
- Rest. This is important as walking may cause further problems.
- Ice. Use an ice pack wrapped in a towel. Never apply directly to the skin and leave on for twenty minutes.
- Compression. Bandage the foot to prevent further swelling.
- Elevate the leg at or above the level of the heart to decrease swelling.
For non-surgical intervention, we (or a doctor) will recommend a brace or special insoles for your shoes, as well as physiotherapy. We will work with you to manage your pain with ice and instruct you in stretching exercises for the calf muscles. We will also help you modify your training schedule to match your recovery and advise you on wearing proper shoes to prevent further injury.