According to Greek mythology, the demi-god Achilles had it pretty good. His immortal mother, Thetis, dipped him in the river Styx as a baby to grant him invincibility. But Thetis held him by his ankle as she dipped him, leaving that portion unprotected. As the legend goes, this came back to bite Achilles in the end, and he was killed by a Trojan arrow to the heel — Achille’s heel.
Achilles injuries are some of the most common in America, with over 230,000 US adults injuring their achilles each year. But how can you know when you’ve injured your Achilles versus another lower leg structure? Keep reading to find out.
And if you suspect you may have injured your Achilles ankle, come see our team at Steven E. Nolan, MD. Dr. Nolan is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with over 20 years of experience and has received numerous top-surgeon awards during his career. Here, he goes over the anatomy of the Achilles tendons, common achilles injuries, symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options.
The Achilles tendon is the longest tendon in the body, stretching from the base of the heel to the calf muscle. As an important connecting point in the leg, it bears a lot of stress and pressure during both everyday activities and athletic endeavors. The Achilles tendon plays a role in walking, running, and jumping; additionally, you can feel your Achilles work when you point your toes forward or stand on your tippy toes.
Although there are many injuries that can afflict the Achilles tendon, most people with Achilles tendon injuries will suffer a tear, rupture, or Achilles tendonitis. Tears can happen overtime or suddenly, and can vary greatly in intensity. A rupture is a complete tear or break in the tendon that happens suddenly. Achilles tendonitis, like tendonitis in other parts of the body, is typically caused by overuse and can lead to tears or rupture.
One of the most common symptoms of a rupture is a popping sound, similar to that of an ACL tear. Other possible symptoms of an Achilles tendon injury include:
After an injury, you may have trouble pushing off of the injured leg when walking and will not be able to stand on your tippy toes.
Anyone is capable of suffering an achilles tendon injury, especially if they are active and play sports or exercise often. Despite this, there are some factors that can increase the risk of a tear, including:
Achilles injuries are also more common when starting a new sport in which you are unfamiliar with proper technique. Sports that involve a lot of running, jumping, and sudden stops/starts, like soccer and basketball, see more Achilles injuries.
For cases of mild tendonitis and less severe tears, rest, ice, compression, elevation, and noninflammatory medication may do the trick. If you still want to exercise while injured, you may be able to explore low-impact activities, such as swimming.
If you suffer a severe injury that needs medical attention, Dr. Nolan examines the injury and may recommend any of the following:
Dr. Nolan is an expert on Achilles injuries and works with you to help you make a full recovery and return to the activities you love.
To learn more about Achilles tendon injuries and treatments, request an appointment online or over the phone with Steven E. Nolan, MD, today.