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Don’t fall behind: The Achilles Tendon

Achilles tendon injuries can be defined as tendonitis or ruptures to the large tendon that runs down the back of the ankle connecting the two main calf muscles to the heel bone. These injuries are one of the more common causes of heel pain in active people usually from overuse, misalignment, improper footwear and direct blows to area. Achilles tendon injuries can develop into two different conditions, tendonitis or Achilles tendon ruptures.

Symptoms

Burning pain and tenderness during or after activity behind the ankle in the Achilles are the most common symptoms of Achilles tendonitis. Symptoms of Achilles tendon ruptures are sudden, and severe pain and may be accompanied by a popping sound at the time of injury. This may be followed by swelling and an inability to point toes. Most commonly, it tears when the calf is contracting while an external force is stretching it. Ruptures are typically treated with surgery.

Treatment

The treatments of Achilles tendon injuries depend on the type and severity of the injury. For tendonitis, rest, icing down the swollen area, along with anti-inflammatory medication can help with swelling. Sometimes physical therapy, use of heel lifts and immobilization are recommended. Left untreated, tendonitis can become chronic developing into tendonitis, which is degenerative. When this occurs, surgery is needed and post-surgery, a cast and physical therapy may be required.

Surgical Treatment

Ruptures typically require surgery during which a procedure is done to restore function to the foot and ankle. The surgeon makes an incision over the Achilles tendon, which allows access to the rupture. The two separated ends of the tendon are then pulled toward each other and carefully sutured together. Typically, the recovery time lasts between four to six months.

Prevention

Though accidental impact is difficult to avoid, there are other ways to prevent these injuries. Stretching of the calf muscle and Achilles tendon group before activity is of the utmost importance; and wearing the right shoes is important for people with low or high arches or misalignment. The correct shoes will provide support and cause less stress on the heel.

Another easy preventative measure is ensuring proper warm up before, after and during activity. Special emphasis should be placed on stretches working the calf muscles. It is also important to check for injuries during and after workouts. If they are sore or painful, they need to be addressed immediately.

Only your surgeon can help you decide what is best for you. Talk to J. Lex Kenerly, M.D., Orthopaedic Surgeon, and the staff at the Bone & Joint Institute of South Georgia if you have questions about preventing Achilles tendon injuries or Achilles tendon surgery in general.

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