So, why is it called the Achilles tendon anyway? I am so glad you asked. Achilles was a hero in Greek mythology. When Achilles was born, his mother, Thetis wanted him to be immortal. She took the baby and dipped him in the River Styx. She held him by his heel and dipped the rest of him in the river. Thus making his heel the only vulnerable part of his body. Achilles was a major character in the Trojan War. The story of the Trojan War was told in the book The Iliad. Achilles was killed when Paris shot him in the heel with a poison arrow. According to some sources, the Achilles tendon was originally the “cord of Achilles”.
The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body. It connects your heel to your calf muscles. The tendon can stand great stress but it is prone to overuse injuries. These injuries are called Achilles tendonitis. Tendonitis simply means an inflammation of the tendon. When a tendon is inflamed, it can swell and small tears can develop along the tendon. These small tears are painful and make using the tendon – in this case, walking, running, jumping, or using stairs painful.
There are two types of Achilles tendonitis. One type is insertional which is when the Achilles tendon is injured at the lower portion of the heel where the tendon attaches (inserts) into the heel. Insertional tendonitis can also be associated with bone spurs developing on the heel. Noninsertional tendonitis is found further up on the tendon. Noninsertional tendonitis usually is more of an injury found in younger active people. With both kinds of tendonitis, the damaged tendon fibers can harden or calcify.
Achilles tendonitis is not generally due to a specific injury; rather it is from repeated stress on the tendon. If you suddenly increase your activity or intensity of your activities, then your Achilles may become damaged. Also, if you have tight muscles in your calf and you start an aggressive exercise program you can damage your Achilles.
A bone spur can form on your heel and that can aggravate the Achilles tendon. A bone spur will form in response to pressure or rubbing (too small shoes or being overweight are possible causes). A bone spur can also form when you have tight ligaments when participating in activities like running or dancing.
If you have injured your Achilles tendon, you will usually feel pain and stiffness along the tendon in the morning. The pain may increase with activities and could be much worse the day after exercising. You may also notice swelling along with the pain. Sometimes you will even be able to see the thickening of the tendon when looking at the back of your heel.
It is possible to rupture your Achillles tendon. If you do this, you may hear a “pop” noise when it happens. If you totally rupture your tendon, you will feel a loss of strength and movement. It is imperative that you get to your friendly local podiatrist right away.
|Please note the swelling on the left heel.|
This is an indication of a Achilles problem.
When you are in pain, the best course it to call and go visit your podiatrist. The doctor can examine the area and if necessary have the it x-rayed. You need to have the doctor check to make sure that the problem is your Achilles tendon. Unfortunately, an Achilles injury is not a quick fix injury. It can take time for the tendon to heal. As with all overuse injuries, the first course of action is to rest the area. While resting your tendon, you may also want to put ice on it. If you can tolerate them, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (like ibuprofen and naproxen) may give you some relief. Depending upon your pain level, the doctor could suggest that you wear a boot for a short period. This could give the tendon a chance to rest before you start exercising.
The doctor may give you some exercises to help gradually stretch the area. It may be suggested that you go to physical therapy. One thing that you do not want to do is have a cortisone shot into the tendon. This will not help and will possible cause more damage.
Achilles tendonitis is one of those injuries that the sooner you start taking care of it, the better off you will be. This can become a chronic problem if you ignore it or do not follow the recovery plan as discussed with your doctor.