Fun fact: the Achilles tendon, which stretches from your heel to your calf muscle, is the largest tendon in the human body. Not-so-fun fact: it’s pretty common to injure the Achilles tendon–and quite painful at times. More-fun fact: physical therapy can really help an injured Achilles tendon.
Achilles Tendon Injuries
If you’re not familiar, the Achilles tendon is what allows you to raise to your tiptoes or point your toes toward the floor, so it’s a critical component to many everyday movements. An injury to the tendon, depending on its severity, can impact many of those movements or even prevent them. The two most common Achilles tendon injuries are:
- Achilles tendon tear: Whether it’s a partial or a full tear, this injury is very painful. In the case of a full tear, you might hear a popping or snapping sound. An Achilles tear is generally identified by bruising and swelling in the area, as well as the inability or struggle to point your toes or stand on them.
- Achilles tendinitis: This is more common than a tear and occurs when part of the tendon becomes inflamed. With this injury, you’ll notice pain around and above the heel, sometimes accompanied by swelling, tenderness, and/or stiffness.
Achilles tendon injuries most often occur during activities where there are sudden starts, pivots, and stops, such as running, dancing, and nearly every type of sport. These injuries tend to occur when you start moving suddenly as you push off and lift your foot rather than when you land. These injuries are also the result of repeated stress on the tendon due to high-impact activities. While Achilles injuries are a fairly common occurrence among athletes, you certainly don’t have to be one to injure the tendon.
Who’s at Risk?
An Achilles injury can happen to anyone, though the odds of sustaining an injury obviously increase if you consistently partake in exercise or sports. But there are plenty of other factors involved in an Achilles tendon injury, including:
- Footwear (If you wear high heels or wear shoes that don’t fit properly or are not suited for the type of activity you’re doing, you can become more susceptible to an Achilles injury.)
- Bone spurs
- Flat feet/fallen arches
- New exercises/added intensity to exercises
- Chronic conditions such as lupus, gout, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis
- You take medications (glucocorticoids) or antibiotics (fluoroquinolones)
Treating an Achilles Tendon Injury
If you suspect you injured your Achilles tendon, make sure you get a diagnosis from a physician so you can begin treatment. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended to repair and reattach the tendon, followed by a lengthy course of rehab and physical therapy. In most cases though, rest, ice, and physical therapy are the perfect treatments for Achilles injuries like tendinitis.
Physical therapy for an Achilles tendon injury will most likely involve strengthening and stretching the foot and ankle area. While this won’t “fix” the issue, it can go a long way toward making your day-to-day much more comfortable. Foot exercises and stretching, such as toe stretches and toe curls, help build strength and flexibility–and you can do most of these exercises while seated. Other physical therapy techniques may be used as well, including ultrasound heat therapy and deep massage.
Achilles Tendon Therapy
While an Achilles tendon injury can be painful and inconvenient, it doesn’t have to disrupt your life. At Physical Therapy NOW in Irving, we’ve seen and treated more Achilles injuries than we can count! Our experienced physical therapists will give your injury a thorough examination, and from there we’ll create a treatment plan that will have you back on your feet (literally!) and ready to resume your daily activities. Call us at (214) 225-0291 to set up your initial consultation or click here to request an appointment.