The mythological Greek warrior Achilles had one vulnerability—his heel. Anyone who has ever experienced pain or an injury to the tendon that shares Achilles’ name knows all too well the debilitating pain caused by an injury to the small but crucial tendon that connects the calf muscles to the heel. Also known as the calcaneal tendon, it is the thickest and most powerful tendon in the body. When your calf muscles contract, they lift the heel by the Achilles tendon, creating the action that allows you to walk, jump, and run. A rupture, dislocation, tear, or a case of tendonitis in the Achilles can be extremely painful and slow to heal. What can you do to prevent an injury to your Achilles heel, and when should you see your doctor about your pain?
Active adults, especially those who participate in such recreational activities as soccer, basketball, and tennis that involve a lot of running, jumping, and fast stops, are at an increased risk of an Achilles heel injury. To protect your tendons:
If you are experiencing discomfort in your Achilles from overuse, consider the pain management treatments below. If you believe you have experienced a tear, rupture, or a more severe injury, talk to your doctor immediately.
If your pain begins at the onset of an injury, especially if you hear a popping or snapping sound at the time of the event, see a doctor immediately, as you may have experienced an Achilles tendon tear or rupture. Pain that builds up over time due to overuse or pain caused by a partial tear may not require invasive treatment, but you should still make an appointment with your doctor if your pain is severe or does not improve with rest, stretching, and a cold compress after several weeks. Your doctor may recommend surgery, physical therapy, over-the-counter pain medicine, or rest, depending on the extent of your injury.