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What Is an Achilles Injury?

What Is an Achilles Injury?

The Achilles’ heel, or also called Achilles tendon, is often referred to as a person’s weak spot in the foot area that may eventually lead to an Achilles injury. It is so named because of the Greek mythological hero Achilles who was known as the strongest warrior during the Trojan war. He did, however, have one weakness: his heel.

The Achilles heel is a fibrous band of tissue that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. Because it is the strongest tendon in the body, this particular tendon allows mobility, strength, and flexibility to do physical activities such as walking, running, or jumping. But when it gets inflamed or swollen, it leads to its injury counterpart known as the Achilles injury.

Achilles injury

What Is an Achilles Injury?

Because the Achilles tendon is an important part of the body which is responsible for handling the stress and pressure of different day-to-day activities, the injuries can happen to anyone.

Athletes often experience an Achilles injury as they go undergo training sessions and rigorous strength-building exercises. It can gradually heal on its own unlike those injuries in the muscular area of the leg where there is less blood supply to support healing.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms?

A person who is suffering from Achilles injury may show one or more of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Pain at the back of your leg or near the heel area
  • Difficulty walking and climbing using one’s toes (uphill places and situations i.e., staircase)
  • Thickening of the tendon
  • Soreness and stiffness of the heel (particularly in the morning)
  • Weakness in the affected leg
  • Pain that gets worse over time or when the specific part is being used
  • Swelling of the Achilles tendon
  • Difficulty moving around the affected foot
  • Sudden pain that feels like a stab or a kick in the calf
  • A sharp pop or cracking sound and sensation (may lead to a ruptured tendon)

What Are the Causes?

The following can result in an Achilles injury:

Tendonitis

The overuse or damage of the area may eventually lead to tendonitis. It swells and may cause a painful feeling at the back of your leg, as well as the heel area. The tendon can thicken and stiffen due to this, which worsens the pain and the overall condition.

There are two types of tendonitis:

Noninsertional Achilles tendonitis. This type of tendonitis takes place when small tears in the middles fibers of the tendon start to break the tendon down. Younger adults who have an active lifestyle may experience some pain and swelling.

Insertional Achilles tendonitis. People at any age or fitness level may experience this type. Bone spurs (extra bone growth) have the tendency to develop when the damage takes place at the spot where the tendon and heel bone meet.

Rupture

You should immediately seek medical attention when there is already a partial break (or tear) in the tendon. A rupture may also be identified when you hear a sharp popping sound or feel a popping sensation coming from the leg or heel bone.

How To Treat It

An Achilles injury can be treated by using the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). But some cases may need more than that such as:

  • Physical therapy or rehabilitation
  • Surgery

Before coming up with any surgery or therapy program, you should first consult your medical doctor to assess you and your situation.

How To Prevent It

Avoid the possibility of having Achilles tendon injuries by considering these tips to follow:

  • Stretching before and after a workout or any physical activity
  • Strengthening the calf muscle
  • Choosing a variety of exercises to follow through with
  • Slowly increasing your training intensity, one day at a time

Key Takeaway

Warming up before and after doing any sport or strenuous activity can help prevent the risk of having an Achilles injury. While it is important to move and stay active, especially nowadays, it is just as important to make sure that you do not hurt yourself with any injury that may arise. Always make sure to listen to your body as well.

Check out more fitness tips here!

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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Fiel Tugade Updated 3 weeks ago
Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD