Did you know the Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in your body? Along with being the largest tendon, the Achilles is tasked with bearing the stress placed on your feet when you walk, run and jump. It plays an essential role in getting you from one place to another.
Because of its size and importance, any rupture or tear to the Achilles tendon can seriously hinder a person’s ability to walk. Depending on the severity of the tear, some individuals must undergo surgery and forgo weight bearing for a few months. Below, we’ll examine the signs, symptoms and prevention tips of an Achilles tendon tear.
A shooting pain in my leg and calf
Achilles tendon tears commonly occur during athletic activity, but they can also happen during your daily routine. Some of the ways a person may tear their Achilles incudes:
- Participating in any sporting event with quick movements. Some of the most common sports for Achilles tears include basketball, football, tennis and soccer.
- Overuse or overexertion.
- Neglecting to stretch before exercise.
- Wearing high heels, which puts additional stress on the tendon.
- A previous foot condition. Individuals with flat feet may be more prone to Achilles tendon tears because the impact of a step causes the arch of the foot to collapse, putting increased stress on the tendon.
Symptoms of an Achilles Tendon Tear
An Achilles tendon rupture is categorized by a sharp, abrupt pain in your calf. Pain will be more intense depending on how severely you tear your Achilles. Similar to when you pull a muscle in your body, you may feel the tendon “pop” when it tears. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may have an Achilles injury:
- Tenderness or swelling in the calf or lower leg.
- Feeling a “snap” or “pop” in the calf during the injury.
- Inability to flex or point your toes.
- A shooting pain in your calf and leg during the injury.
Preventing an Achilles tear
Because Achilles tendon tears can knock a person off their feet for a few months, it is important to take preventative steps to ensure you don’t put yourself at an increased risk for suffering an injury.
The easiest way to prevent an Achilles injury is to make sure you properly stretch before exercise or activity. Before you hit the court or field, ensure that you stretch your calf and lower leg muscles. Sit on the ground and try to touch your toes. Hold the position for 10-15 seconds, and then repeat with the other leg. Here are five more stretches you can do to warm up your lower legs.
If you are going for a run, make sure you work your way up to top speed. Many runners warm their bodies up with a walk before they begin their run because this helps loosen up their muscles. Progressively increase your speed until you are at your desired pace so you don’t put too much stress on your feet too soon. Some other tips for preventing Achilles tendon injuries include:
- Always wear comfortable, flat-bottomed shoes.
- Stop exercising if you feel pain or tightness in your Achilles region.
- If you are going for a run, always try to run on a level surface. Running on a hilly terrain might be more challenging, but it also leaves you more susceptible to an Achilles injury.
In a companion post in the future, we’ll explore the surgical treatment options and recovery protocols associated with Achilles tendon tears.
Related source: AAOS, WebMD
Lance Silverman, MD
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