Our bodies make use of a complex system of tissues and organs to accomplish the incredible feats we can achieve. Muscles are comprised of tissues that work together to help us move, lift objects, play sports, and more. Bones are organs comprised of various types of tissue and serve as the foundation of our physical shape. Tying these two together are tendons, a fibrous band of connective tissue that attaches the muscle to the bone and makes it possible for the two to work together to create movements. Everything from typing at your keyboard to running a marathon is dependent on the ability of these two to work together. The strongest and largest of these tendons in the human body is the Achilles Tendon.
What The Achilles Tendon Does, How It Can Be Injured
Connecting the calf muscles to your heel, the Achilles tendon is critical in everything we do with our legs and feet. The flexing of the calf muscles pulls on the heel of our feet, coming into play when we run, walk, jump, swim, or do just about anything that involves our legs. While the Achilles tendon is remarkably strong, it’s also prone to injury. This is due in part to the stresses it experiences as part of our day-to-day activities, but also due to its place in our lower extremities. Its location means that it receives a limited amount of blood flow, making it difficult for it to heal properly. Conditions that specifically affect the Achilles tendon include:
- Achilles Tendon Tear – Swelling, pain, and impaired movement can all be the result of small tears in the Achilles tendon, which may form suddenly, or overtime.
- Achilles Tendon Rupture – A popping sound may indicate the formation of a rupture of the Achilles tendon. Healing an Achilles Tendon Rupture often requires immobilization of the ankle over a long period or surgery.
- Achilles Tendinitis – Ongoing high levels of activity can result in the tendon becoming inflamed, which can result in stiffness, swelling, and more. Ice, rest, and stretching are usually necessary to heal the wound over a period of weeks.
- Achilles Peritendonitis – This condition is similar to the above but involves the tissue surrounding the tissues rather than the tissues themselves. It specifically occurs a few inches above the heel.
- Achilles Tendinosis – This condition often starts without noticeable symptoms and involves the gradual thickening of the tendon. This is often the result of overuse or aging. Contrary to expectations, this often makes the tendon weaker and more likely to be injured.
As one of the most important tendons in the body, this represents only a small selection of the conditions that can affect this fibrous band.
What To Do If You Suspect You Have Issues With Your Achilles Tendon
If you’re experiencing aches or pains in your Achilles tendon, you should immediately rest it and apply ice. If this pain is intense or preceded by a popping sound, you should find your way to the emergency room immediately. In either case, schedule an appointment with your foot and ankle specialist to determine the source of the pain and what can be done to treat it.