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Did you know that your Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in your body? The Achilles connects your heel bone to your calf muscle, and is used anytime you flex or move your foot, whether that be through walking, running, stretching, or standing on your toes. While your Achilles is incredibly strong and can withstand a lot of pressure, the tendon is still susceptible to injury, especially when under stress doing activities involving inclines, sprinting or quick pivoting. Jamal Ahmad, MD, Orthopaedic Specialist at NorthShore, shares how to properly care for and prevent Achilles injuries.
An Achilles injury can usually be classified into three different categories: strains, ruptures or tendonitis.
Strains tend to be mild and can clear up within a few days with rest and ice. Ruptures tend to be extremely painful and instant. You may hear a snapping or popping noise when they happen and could require surgery to fix. Tendonitis is usually caused by overuse, and may take weeks or months to heal if not properly rested.
It is much easier to prevent an Achilles injury than to manage or heal it.
Other than being an athlete, risk factors include wearing high heels, having “flat feet,” tight leg muscles or tendons, or certain medications.
To prevent Achilles tendon injuries in the future, Dr. Ahmad, shares that is important to stretch, especially the lower leg. Additionally, strength exercises - such as calf raises - are an excellent way to build the muscles around the tendon to minimize injury.
If you feel pain or tightness in your calf or tendon, it is best to stop exercising. If your tendon is injured, you don’t need to live a sedentary life. Low-impact exercises like swimming are excellent ways to stay in shape while reducing the damage caused to the tendon.
Ice and rest are important when there is an injury as they can help minimize inflammation and speed up the recovery process. However, be careful to not push yourself too hard when you think you’ve healed as your tendon might not be fully recovered and you could reinjure yourself. Talk to your physician before you start a workout after an Achilles injury.