We’ve all heard the Greek myth of Achilles, hero of the Trojan wars and subject of Homer’s The Iliad. Legend says that the infant Achilles was dipped into the river Styx by his mother Thetis in an attempt to make her son immortal. But she held him by his left heel, thus creating his only weakness. This is where we get the phrase “Achilles’ heel” meaning someone’s greatest weakness. In reality the Achilles tendon, also known as the calcaneal tendon, is the thickest and strongest tendon in the body. When the Achilles tendon suffers an injury it is almost always due to a great amount of pressure, most likely a sports injury. The two most common injuries to the Achilles tendon are inflammation and rupture, sometimes referred to as a tear.
Inflammation of the Achilles is often caused by overuse. Typically individuals who are overweight suffer from inflammation because the tendon is constantly working very hard to support their body’s weight, so your physician will usually recommend weight loss if you struggle with frequent inflammation. In the meantime to keep inflammation down you should use ice packs on the area of pain, for no longer than 20 minutes at a time, to help prevent frostbite. Also, NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen are helpful in reducing swelling and pain.
Tears are another problem entirely. The pain from Achilles tendon tears is often so bad that many people cannot walk on them without excruciating pain. Care should be sought out immediately to prevent further damage. Your doctor will perform either an MRI or an ultrasound of the area to confirm the severity of the tear. If your doctor determines that the tear is minor they will recommend you rest and use crutches when you need to get around, as well as ice and pain relievers. They may also suggest a cast or a walking boot to help keep your foot immobilized. However, if the tear is bad then surgical correction and physical therapy will be needed to help you recover.
If you suspect a tendon injury the experienced doctors and staff of Ankle & Foot Associates, LLC are ready to help treat you with care and compassion. We have 17 locations in southeast Georgia and South Carolina to better serve you.