The standard English term for the tendon located above and behind the heel originates from Ancient Greek literature. The Achilles tendon connects the heel with the muscles of the calf and allows the foot to bend. An Achilles tendon injury is painful but will usually heal within a short period. If someone experiences a succession of injuries to the tendon, that fail to fully recover, it leads to a condition that doctors call Achilles tendinopathy.
The onset of pain in the back of the foot provides a clear indicator that some damage has occurred. If this pain is strong but intolerable, it could be a case of a tendon rupture. The pain is usually worse in the early morning and declines as the day proceeds. If the pain is very strong, then it is more likely to be a moderate Achilles tendon injury.
Those with Achilles tendon injuries often feel stiffness around the tendon, as well as a surrounding ache. In common with the actual pain, this stiffness is likely to be worse when this injured person wakes up in the morning. Quite often the stiffness builds up gradually, and it goes away as the tendon warms up when they start walking. If they are unable to walk this is a sign that they have incurred a more serious tendon rupture.
Although experiences vary as a rule Achilles tendon pain is felt more intensely following the exercise as opposed to during it. In a typical scenario, the jogger feels pain from this tendon at the start of their jog but as they continue this pain markedly declines. When they stop to take a break, the pain starts becoming stronger again. In the most moderate cases pain is only felt after a jog or run, but in the most severe cases, even regular walking becomes extremely painful.
Perhaps the most visible sign of this injury is the way it occurs at a time when the tendon is exposed to very heavy pressures. These Achilles tendon injuries invariably happen as a consequence of some vigorous physical activity. The position of this tendon in the body makes it easy to understand why runners are most likely to suffer from this health issue. However, even though the public view it primarily as a running injury it also easily happens to sports people and dancers who jump around a great deal in the course of their activities.
Doctors and researchers who interview Achilles tendon injury patients note how some of them claim to have heard a pop, crack or snap kind of noise just before the very first burst of pain. They might also hear such sounds whenever any pressure is put onto this tendon. This is one of the signs doctors look for when they examine somebody with a tendon injury. Usually, the noise indicates a complete rupture of the tendon while a partial rupture has no such sound association.
A swelling in the leg around the calf sometimes occurs after the Achilles tendon is ruptured. The skin in this area might also appear to be bruised and reddish and feel as though it is heated. Swelling normally indicates that the tendon is fully ruptured. If this happens, don't take any chances but go immediately to a doctor or hospital for emergency treatment. The faster the injury is treated, the better the prospects are for a quick recovery.
The more severe Achilles tendon injuries restrict movement of the leg. If the tendon is completely ruptured, the leg suddenly loses all of its strength. The injured individual‘s ankle cannot take their full body weight, and this prevents them from doing simple everyday activities like going upstairs. If the damage is less severe, the leg feels lazy or weak, but nevertheless, it is still moveable, so they can walk around and climb stairs.
Usually, the injured area of the leg is painful when touched, although in the case of lighter tendon injuries this might not be noticeable. The greater the extent of the damage to the tendon, the more sensitive this part of the leg will be to touch. Along with the circumstances when the injury happened, sensitivity to touch is another of the symptoms that help doctors quickly distinguish an Achilles tendon injury from other problems.
While the link between Achilles tendon injuries and activities that put heavy pressure on the tendon is obvious, research shows that those taking some medications are more at risk, for example, users of fluoroquinolones (these include several popular antibiotics). It does not follow from this that someone on one of these medications should stop taking them before they want to go running or dancing. Nobody should stop a course of medication without first consulting their doctor, but appreciate that the risk is higher.
Another interesting medical research finding draws attention to the way that people with some sorts of arthritis tend to be more exposed to tendon injuries. Scientists suspect that they might be a genetic element involved. They have also discovered that people with diabetes and high cholesterol are overrepresented in the Achilles tendon injury statistics. At one time they believed that men were more likely to get tendon damage but recent research disproves this theory.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.