Achilles Tendon: Anatomy, Injuries, and Treatment
The Achilles tendon is one of the largest tendons in the human body, stretching from the two main calf muscles (the gastrocnemius and soleus) to the heel bone (the calcaneus). The most common injuries to occur in the Achilles tendon include rupture of the tendon, tendonitis (inflammation of the tendon), and tendinosis (degeneration of the tendon).
One of the most injured tendons, an Achilles tendon injury may be caused by overuse, increased stress from shoes (specifically high heels), lack of stretching before exercise, or upping physical activity too quickly.
Symptoms of tendinitis may include burning pain and/or tenderness during any sort of physical activity. This condition could potentially become chronic with lack of rest and treatment. Tendinosis may also be produced from overuse or stress of the tendon, but unlike tendonitis, tendinosis is chronic and is sometimes irreversible.
Constant stress on the Achilles tendon may produce micro-tears and depletion of the collagen tissue. The condition is very painful and may lower the amount of strength and mobility within the tendon. A rupture of the tendon may occur due to overuse or injury.
The most common way to get an Achilles tendon injury is when it tears as the calf contracts while an outside force is stretching it. Symptoms may include severe pain or a potential popping sound during the injury. Swelling and the inability to point one’s toes or properly stand may occur as well.
To treat tendinitis and tendinosis, most physicians recommend ice, rest, and possibly over-the-counter pain relievers. A popular healing technique involves heel lifts: by elevating the heal, stress is lessened on the Achilles tendon.