An Achilles tendon injury is a painful condition that can happen to anyone and will affect their ability to walk properly. The Achilles tendon is the largest ligament in the body and it runs from the bones in the heel to the calf muscles. It feels like a squishy band of tissue right above the heel, at the back of the ankle.

The ligament helps to raise the body on the tiptoes, pointing the toes towards the floor. It can get injured in many ways and these injuries are most often mild to moderate. Severe injuries of the Achilles tendon may lead to stiffness and cause burning pain in the affected leg. This usually happens when the Achilles tendon is partially or fully ruptured.

Causes of Achilles Tendon Injury

Achilles tendon injuries are not limited to athletes, although it mostly happens when you quickly speed up, slow down, or pivot. This is common in runners, gymnasts, dancers, footballers, as well as baseball, basketball, volleyball, softball, and tennis players. The injury happens when you start moving quickly and push off lifting your foot, like at the start of a sprint. This abrupt movement can put a lot of stress on the Achilles tendon and lead to an injury.

Generally, people in their 30’s and older are more prone to an Achilles tendon injury, but it can happen at any age. Wearing high heels, having flat feet or fallen arches, and tight leg muscles and ligaments are some of the main contributing factors of Achilles tendon injuries. Likewise, medicines like glucocorticoids and fluoroquinolones can also make the Achilles tendon weak and prone to an injury.

Symptoms of Achilles Tendon Injury

The most common symptom of an Achilles tendon injury is pain directly above the heel, especially when the ankle is stretched or when you stand on your toes. The pain may be mild to excruciating depending upon the severity of the injury. The affected area may also swell, feel tender, or stiff if the tendon is ruptured. You may also feel it difficult to point your toes or push off your toes when you walk.

An orthopedic doctor can help diagnose your injury and find the right treatment options for you. Minor to moderate injuries to the Achilles tendon will usually heal on their own. You just need to rest your leg and avoid putting weight on it. Using an ice pack and elastic bandage may also help to speed up the healing process. Your doctor may also recommend anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, to help you manage the pain and swelling. Likewise, using an orthopedic heel lift may help with the recovery process of your Achilles tendon injury.

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    About the Author

    Dr. Ghassan M. Al-Jazayrly, MD

    A graduate of University of Aleppo Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Al-Jazayrly or, as he is colloquially known: Dr. AJ, is an oncologist and hematologist of a Complete Care Community Health Center (CCCHC) with more than 36 years of experience. In recent years, he’s been involved with a non profit organization known as Every Woman Counts (EWC) which provides free breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services to California’s underserved populations in order to eliminate health disparities for low-income individuals.

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