The Achilles tendon is named after the mythological figure Achilles, whose only weakness was his heel. The Achilles tendon may be named after a Greek myth, but the importance of this tendon to the function of your feet and legs is very real. Do you understand how your Achilles tendon works, and how this key part of your lower body can sustain injury or damage?
Experienced podiatrist and foot and ankle surgeon Dr. Leonard Greenwald provides diagnosis and care for heel pain and other potential symptoms of Achilles tendon issues from his office in San Jose, California.
Here’s what Dr. Greenwald wants you to understand about your Achilles tendon and keeping your feet and legs functioning freely.
Connecting your calf to your heel
You can feel the bulge of your Achilles tendon at the back of your heel, rising up to meet the muscles of your calf. You have two Achilles tendons, one for each of your lower limbs. Achilles tendons enter your heel bone, where they are cushioned by fluid-filled sacs, or bursae.
Your Achilles tendon activates whenever your calf muscles flex, pulling upward on your heel so you can achieve motions like standing on your toes. Your Achilles tendons have to be both strong and flexible, carrying the weight of your upper body while still giving your heel joint a full range of motion.
It’s no surprise that Achilles tendon injuries are common, especially as you get older, or if you’re overweight. Achilles tendons also don’t get much in the way of blood supply, another factor that increases the risk of injury in that location.
Achilles tendon injuries
Even though your Achilles tendon is the strongest, biggest tendon in your whole body, Achilles tendons can become injured or damaged in several different ways. Here’s what you need to know:
Achilles tendon tears or ruptures
Under pressure, your Achilles tendon can give way. You can suffer from tiny microtears, or large tears or ruptures that produce a popping sound. A rupture may require surgical treatment for full recovery.
Achilles tendinosis (tendonitis) or peritendonosis
Overuse may result in symptoms of pain and stiffness felt at the back of your heel, or in your Achilles tendon above your heel, as your tendon gradually thickens and weakens. These conditions, also generally known as Achilles tendinopathy, can require a few weeks of rest for recovery, as well as therapies like icing treatment.
Achilles or heel (calcaneal) bursitis
If the back of your heel gets irritated, the bursa that cushions your Achilles tendon can become inflamed, resulting in pain in the back of your heel that feels worse when you wear shoes.
Supporting your Achilles tendon
No matter your Achilles tendon or heel pain-related concerns, Dr. Greenwald and his team can help. If your heel pain symptoms don’t resolve after a few days of rest, schedule an appointment with Dr. Greenwald for diagnosis and treatment to resolve the root cause of your issue.
Seek treatment right away if you see signs like swelling or redness around your heel, or if your pain becomes severe. Contact our office online or over the phone today.