The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in your body. But if you run, jump, or even spend a lot of time sitting, you can rupture, weaken, or damage the Achilles, causing pain and compromising your leg’s range of motion.
At Scheffel Foot Center, John A. Scheffel, DMD, has extensive experience treating Achilles tendon injuries and can help you prevent your Achilles tendon from rupturing. We’ve put together some information about this tendon and what you can do to prevent injury.
What is the Achilles tendon?
Your Achilles tendon is the fibrous cord that connects your heel bone to your calf muscle. It is the largest and arguably the most important tendon in your body. You use it each time you walk, stand on your toes, and point your foot downward.
When you overstretch your Achilles tendon, it can tear, which prevents you from walking normally. To repair the rupture, you need physical therapy and/or surgery.
Who is at risk for rupturing the Achilles tendon?
Although sports are most commonly associated with Achilles tendon injuries, you can rupture your Achilles even if you’ve never run a marathon or kicked a soccer ball.
Here’s who is most at risk of rupturing their Achilles:
- Divers, tennis and basketball players, runners, cyclists, volleyball players, and gymnasts
- People who don’t stretch or condition before exercise
- People who use corticosteroids and certain antibiotics
- People suffering from chronic renal failure, diabetes, gout, infections, thyroid and parathyroid disorders, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis
- People in blood group O
- People with a family history of Achilles tendon ruptures
Symptoms of an Achilles tendon rupture
Some people show no signs or symptoms when their Achilles tendon ruptures. But most people display the following symptoms:
- A popping or snapping sound when the tendon ruptures
- Pain and swelling near the heel
- Inability to bend the foot downward
- Inability to stand on your toes or push off when walking on the injured leg
How to prevent your Achilles tendon from rupturing
Prevention is always better than the cure. Here are tips on how to prevent your Achilles tendon from rupturing:
Before exercising, stretch your calf muscles until you feel a pull, but before you feel pain.
Mix it up
Don’t perform just one exercise, but alternate between high- and low-impact sports. If you’re at high risk for a rupture, avoid activities that stress the tendon, such as hill running and jumping.
Pick your place and shoes
Don’t run or exercise on slippery or hard surfaces, where you’re more likely to injure your Achilles. And wear well-cushioned athletic shoes appropriate for your sport.
Gradually build up pace, distance, and duration when conditioning for a sport. A sudden increase in effort is one of the most common reasons a tendon ruptures.
If you fear you’ve injured your Achilles tendon, call us at our nearest Scheffel Foot Center, or request an appointment using the online scheduler.