The Achilles tendon consists of fibrous tissues that connect the calf muscles to the heel bones. It is cushioned by bursae, which are small sacs of fluid at the heel. In terms of size and strength, the Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the body. A pull is felt by the heel area when the calf muscles flex, which enables us to lift our heels off the ground during activities including walking, running or jumping.
Achilles Tendon Injuries
Due to its limited blood supply and the high tension placed on it, the Achilles tendon is vulnerable to injury regardless of its strength. This phenomenon is similar to the phrase ‘Achilles heel’, which refers to a weakness or vulnerability despite overall strength. As such, let’s take a look at some of the common Achilles tendon conditions.
Achilles Tendon Rupture
An Achilles tendon rupture can happen to anyone, especially individuals who play recreational sports like badminton and basketball frequently. Overstretching can cause tears either completely or partially. When this happens, you might hear a pop sound, followed by a sharp pain at the back of your ankle and lower leg. After which, it becomes difficult to walk properly. Sometimes swelling and bruising appear a day or two later.
Achilles tendinitis is an inflammation of the Achilles tendon. Runners who increase their run intensity and duration suddenly are more likely to develop Achilles tendinitis. Inadequate calf warmup and sudden explosive movements can cause an overuse injury of the Achilles tendon. Typically, symptoms start with a mild ache around the Achilles area after running , cycling or participating in sports. Prolonged running and climbing may aggravate this pain.
Achilles Tendon Injury Treatments
The Achilles tendon treatment options depend on the severity of the condition. In mild cases, non-invasive treatment including physiotherapy, shockwave therapy and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) may suffice. However, in serious conditions, surgery may be required.
Physiotherapy is a great Achilles tendonitis treatment option in Singapore. It can help relieve pain and discomfort, promoting a quicker recovery process. Most physiotherapy techniques revolve around eccentric loading and stretching exercises including the gastrocsoleus muscle stretch and seated calf raise. At times, dry needling may be used in tandem with physiotherapy to treat the condition.
Shockwave therapy has been shown to be an effective Achilles tendonitis treatment option in Singapore. It involves delivering acoustic waves to the Achilles tendon to alleviate pain, enhance blood flow and accelerate healing.
PRP therapy involves injecting a patient’s own platelets into injured tendons, ligaments, muscles, and joints in order to speed up the healing process. PRP injections are prepared by centrifuging a sample of your own blood to concentrate the platelets. When these activated platelets are injected in the Achilles tendon, reparative cells are increased and stimulated to heal a tear or reduce the inflammation. Only a single injection is required in most cases.
Achilles Tendon Surgery
Achilles tendon surgery may be recommended in severe tears. During the procedure, an incision is made in the back of the calf. A ruptured tendon will require the surgeon to stitch the tendons back together using keyhole techniques. A minimally invasive Achilles tendon repair procedure is done with several small incisions instead of one large one. In this way, recovery is faster and surgical risk is minimised. Patients are able to bear weight and return to work in 3 to 4 weeks.
Preventing Achilles Tendon Injuries
At the end of the day, prevention is better than cure. Practicing good exercising habits and creating a safe exercising environment are great ways to prevent Achilles tendon injuries. For one, always warm up before performing strenuous sports activities to ensure that your muscles are well stretched. Secondly, try to avoid exercising on uneven surfaces as this increases your risk of an ankle sprain and an Achilles tendon injury. Last but not least, ensure you have the appropriate sports shoes and increase activity slowly rather than all at once. Should you feel any pain or strains while exercising, it is best to stop and rest.
An Achilles tendon pain should not be overlooked as it supports us in many activities. In the event of an injury, it is highly advisable to consult an ankle specialist in Singapore, to formulate a suitable treatment plan.
At Specialist Orthopaedic Centre, we provide a variety of treatment options across musculoskeletal injuries including the Achilles tendon. Require a solution? Contact us today for more information today!