Not every part of the body gets named after a Greek mythological hero, but the Achilles tendon has earned that distinction. The Achilles of myth was large, strong and robust, just like the bands that run along our heel. Sadly, Achilles was taken out quite easily as soon as something managed to injure him—also like our titular tendons.
When something goes wrong with your Achilles tendon, it can leave you quite vulnerable. Seeking help for an injury in prompt time can help prevent chronic pain and impaired mobility.
Although tough, the Achilles tendon is still a soft tissue. As such, it can suffer from problems that come from excessive strain and stress:
If the Achilles tendon endures too much repetitive stress, or takes on a sudden, intense force, the fibers of the band can become overstretched and inflamed. The pain that comes with this condition typically begins as a small ache above the heel after physical activity (particularly running). Engaging in longer periods of activity can result in worse pain in this location. Stiffness and tenderness can also be felt sometimes after a time being still, such as waking up in the morning.
Whereas tendinitis refers to the inflammation of the tendon, “tendinosis” refers to tiny tears developing in the band. Both conditions share the same common cause of overuse, and you will sometimes hear tears referred to as “tendinitis” anyway. In some cases, the term “tendinopathy” is used to describe both inflammation and microtears occurring at the same time.
Achilles Tendon Rupture
A tendon is capable of overstretching to a degree that it sustains a larger tear, known as a rupture. These ruptures can be partial or go completely through the tendon, separating it into two parts. An Achilles tendon rupture causes immediate, intense pain in the back of the ankle and is sometimes accompanied by a pop or snap. Walking properly on the affected area will be very difficult. Surgery is often considered the best option for repairing a rupture, but non-surgical treatment is sometimes an option as well.
Xanthomas of the Achilles
This condition that leaves an uncomfortable, lumpy feeling along the tendon is not caused by physical stress or overuse. Instead, the lumps are deposits of cholesterol building up on the back of the tendon, signifying a dangerously high level of cholesterol in the blood. The underlying cholesterol issue must be addressed right away and the bumps examined to make sure they are not growing into something more serious.
A Hero’s Treatment
A plan for healing and recovery from an Achilles tendon condition will depend on the type and severity sustained. Some injuries will only require rest, conservative care, and monitoring. Others might benefit more from the use of custom-made orthotics, physical therapy, shockwave therapy, or changes in lifestyle. In more severe cases, such as with ruptures, surgery might be considered to repair the tendon.
Dr. Sanjay Patel and the staff at Family Foot Care & Surgery will work with you to determine the cause of your heel pain and the best treatment options that suit your individual needs. Don’t wait on an injured tendon. Leaving it be can result in greater injury and long-term pain or weakness. Contact one of our offices instead, at (203) 876-7736 for Milford or (203) 288-4055 for Hamden. Unlike the mythological Achilles, we can help you get back to full strength again.