About the Achilles Tendon
The Achilles tendon is a part of the calf’s largest, strongest muscle complex. It stretches across two joints connecting the largest bone in the heel (the calcaneus) to the gastrocnemius and soleus calf muscles.
In general, the Achilles tendon is susceptible to damage, especially when strong force is applied, due to its limited blood supply. Factors that increase the chance of injury include aging and increased activity (commonly seen in those who play velocity sports). The onset of tendon damage can be either gradual or sudden, and the healing process tends to be lengthy.
Appropriate treatment for injury to the Achilles tendon often leads to full recovery. Particular conditions that one may develop include: Peritendonitis, Retrocalcaneobursitis, Tendinosis, and Tendonitis. Pain associated with these conditions can be relieved with ice, non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and rest. In cases when the tendon is unresponsive to the above, other treatment methods include the use of orthotics, physical therapy, and surgery. However, for those patients who experience tendon ruptures, casting or surgery is a requirement.
Since the aging U.S. population is remaining active longer in life, conditions of the Achilles tendon are occurring with increased frequency. However, diagnosis is being missed in about 1/4 of cases. A thorough history and physical exam are crucial in order to make the appropriate diagnosis and find the right treatment plan for each patient.