How do you know if you have damaged your Achilles tendon?
If you hear a loud pop, followed by pain in the back of your heel or calf, and you can’t stand on your toes, then you might have torn your Achilles tendon. The most common demographic is your male weekend warrior between the ages of 30 to 40. This can happen during sports that require running, jumping, or sudden stops. This happens because too much force is applied to the tendon, causing it to snap. This is why stretching is so important. There are also a class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones that for whatever reason can cause the tendon to snap as well. Achilles tendon injuries come in a few different flavors which ranges from tendonitis to a complete tear of the Achilles tendon. As with most injuries of the lower extremity, Achilles tendon injuries can be very irritating in that it might bother you with every step. The key here is prevention by stretching. But if it’s too late and you’ve already hurt your Achilles tendon, all is not lost. In fact, most cases of Achilles tendonitis resolve on their own. If you did happen to completely tear your Achilles tendon, then you will likely need a surgical repair. I frequently see patients with Achilles tendon injuries as an orthopedic surgeon in Colorado Springs.
What is the Achilles tendon, and what does it do?
The Achilles tendon comes from your calf muscles, and inserts on the back part of your heel. It is responsible for being able to flex your foot downward and stand on your toes. It is also very important for walking as it allows you to push off. If you have Achilles tendonitis it will hurt when you push off, and if you have torn your Achilles tendon, you might not be able to push off at all.
What should I do about my torn Achilles tendon?
Unfortunately, if your Achilles tendon is torn, it should be surgically repaired. Not having a functional Achilles tendon will negatively affect the way you will walk. If someone is very medically frail or sedentary, sometimes they will just get a cast instead of invasive surgery, but for almost everyone else, surgery is the best option.
What should I do about my Achilles tendonitis?
If your Achilles tendon hurts, but you are still able to stand on your toes and your pain isn’t extreme, you probably have Achilles tendonitis. Fortunately, most cases of Achilles tendonitis eventually get better as long as you take appropriate action. The first is to stretch your Achilles tendon, with exercises that you can easily do at home. The second is to avoid the sporting activities that caused it in the first place, at least until you get better. Some also find relief from heel sleeves and heel lifts. The key is to stay positive, and know that it will get better. Most of my patients in my practice in Colorado Springs with Achilles pain don’t end up needing surgery.
I hope I was able to answer your questions about how you know if you damaged your Achilles tendon. If you still have any questions or want to schedule an in person or virtual consult, please feel free to contact me.
-Written by Dr. Daniel Paull