Don’t Let Your Achilles Tendon Become Your Achilles Heel

Your Achilles tendon plays an essential role in the function of your lower leg and foot. This tendon is the strongest and largest in your body. It is responsible for attaching your calf muscles and heel bone and assists with activities such as jumping, walking, running, and standing on the ball of your feet. It is so strong that your Achilles tendon can withstand forces up to ten times your bodyweight. Since it is such a vital part of the movement of your lower leg, it is imperative that you take good care of this part of your body. Understanding causes which can produce pain or degeneration and strategies for protecting this area can help you to react to, as well as reduce the potential consequences that could impair your Achilles’ function.

Achilles Tendinitis

Excessive repetitive movements or exercises can strain your Achilles tendon and cause multiple micro-tears which can’t heal properly resulting in tendinitis. This condition also has possible links to rheumatoid arthritis and infection. Activities which can strain your Achilles include straining the muscles of your calf excessively, lack of, or improper warmups before workouts, shoes that are worn of fit poorly, prolonged use of high heels, bone spurs in your heel, and age-related wear and tear.

Heel Bursitis

This is the irritation and inflammation of the retrocalcaneal bursa, a small sack of synovial fluid which helps to cushion and lubricate the area where your Achilles tendon is attached to your heel bone. This can be caused by repetitive damage to the bursa as a result of overuse of the ankle and heel areas. You may find when dealing with a heel, or retrocalcaneal, bursitis that you can experience:

  • Swelling around the rear of your heel

  • Pain from shifting weight back onto your heels

  • Stiffness

  • Warm and/or red skin on the rear of your heel

  • Discomfort when wearing shoes

  • Loss of movement

  • Sound of crackling when moving your foot

Achilles Tendinosis

The degeneration and inflammation of your Achilles tendon can cause a condition known as tendinosis. Depending on where the tendinosis occurs it will either be referred to as midsubstance or insertional tendinosis. It can be caused by bones spurs, as well as calf and tendon tightness.

Achilles Tendon Rupture

If you overstretch your Achilles tendon you can rupture the tendon completely. This can present as an abrupt snap at the rear of your heel paired with extreme pain. This results in difficulty with walking. Common causes that greatly increase the stress placed on this tendon and put you at risk for rupture include:

 

  • Increased intensity of physical activity particularly activity involving jumping

  • Falls involving landing on your feet from a height

  • Sudden movement when pushing off while lifting your foot

  • Age-related reduced blood flow

Safeguard Yourself

Shielding your Achilles tendon from potential or further damage as a result of repetitive activity could help you avoid serious injury and relief from related pain. There are some simple steps that you can take to safeguard yourself before strenuous exercise or play.

Always take your time to warm up and stretch. Implementing these into your normal exercise routine can help to ensure that you are not injuring your Achilles due to tightness or stiffness during your workout. It will assist in making sure that the tendon is properly warmed up and flexible which should help to reduce unnecessary tension. This can not only prevent injury but can also provide a significant improvement in your performance.

You should also consider adding support by using insoles or other orthotics such as an Achilles brace for exercise. Using this type of brace can help provide the necessary support, assist with reducing excess stress and strain, as well as potentially help to minimize swelling. The support added by a brace can also counteract abnormal gait issues that can have an effect on other segments of your body. Insoles can correct abnormal alignment which may also play a part in overstressing your Achilles. Implementing the use of these types of aids can be a step in the right direction toward ensuring that your body can best deal with the vertical forces at work on it every day.

Conditioning exercises can go a long way to gradually strengthen your muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Utilizing endurance based conditioning workouts should help you to improve your overall strength and can be tailored to minimizing unreasonable stress on your Achilles. It can also assist with reversing some health problems related to age. It should increase your cardiovascular performance which can have an impact on ensuring that you are getting good blood flow and nutrients to all of your body. This can be particularly important as it concerns your Achilles since it is supplied by only one blood vessel.

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