Achilles Tendon Injuries: The Pain at the Back of Your Ankle

No tendon in your body works harder than your Achilles tendon, the tough sinewy band that connects the two major calf muscles to your heel bone. When the Achilles tendon is worked too long and too hard—runners and basketball players are particularly susceptible–it tightens and can become irritated and inflamed, leading to pain at the back of your ankle.

So what’s going on? Here are some common Achilles tendon injuries:

Achilles Tendonitis vs Achilles Tendinosis: Achilles tendonitis might make itself known by redness, a burning sensation, a lump under the skin, sudden limited ankle flexibility, or a cracking or popping sound when you move your ankle. Left untreated tendonitis can develop into the even more serious Achilles tendinosis, characterized by small tears and thickening of the tendon. Tendonitis and tendinosis are treated differently so it is important that your doctor get a look at your ankle to figure out what’s going on.

Ruptured Achilles Tendon: The most serious of all is a rupture of the Achilles tendon, an injury so severe it has ended the careers of some professional athletes. Just what it sounds like, a ruptured Achilles tendon is a tendon that has torn clear through and is no longer connecting muscles to bone. If this happens to you you will probably need surgery, followed by months of rest and physical therapy; the good news is that rapid advances in surgical technology have made surgery an excellent and effective option.

Prevention: Your Achilles tendon is vulnerable whenever too much of the work normally done by your leg muscles is transferred to the tendon. Always start any exercise with a good stretch to warm up the calf muscles and be wary of abruptly increasing the length or intensity of your exercise sessions. Hill running and speed work put extra stress on your Achilles tendons; shoes that force your ankles to twist or feet that naturally rotate inward also up your chances of an Achilles tendon injury.

Whatever your chosen fitness regimen it’s a good idea to change it up regularly to give parts of your body, including your Achilles tendon, a chance to rest. If you feel any kind of pain in the Achilles area stop what you’re doing; if the pain is intense, or if you feel a hard lump in the tendon, have yourself checked out immediately.

Want to protect yourself from Achilles tendon injuries? Make these a part of your routine

  1. Always Warm-Up. And for an added warm-up try loosening your calf muscles with a foam roller.
  2. Strengthen your calf muscles. One simple exercise: stand on a stair with your heels hanging over the edge, lift up on your toes, then lower your weight so your heels go below stair level (be sure to hold onto the railing!)
  3. Watch your stride. If you are a runner, pay attention to your stride. Long strides can mean that your heels strike the ground with greater force. Shorten up your steps.
  4. Ice. If your Achilles tendon has started to ache, ice the area for 15 or 20 minutes several times a day and massage the area with anti-inflammatory cream.
  5. Strecth. Test your Achilles tendon by doing a couple of toe raises before you start to exercise. If you feel pain lay off high impact exercises for the day and stick with swimming or bike riding.

If your painful Achilles tendon doesn’t improve after a couple of days of rest and icing, make an appointment to see a doctor. The sooner you get checked out the sooner your podiatrist can figure out what’s going on and develop the right course of treatment for your particular situation.

If you are suffering from Achilles pain or an Achilles tendon injury and would like to speak to one of our physicians, please call 336-375-6990 or click here to request an appointment.

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