What is your 'Achilles Heel'?
Most of us will know of the Greek mythology surrounding Achilles and his heel. The most popular version of the story tells us of Achilles - invulnerable Greek warrior and grandson of Zeus - who slayed the Trojan hero Hector during the Trojan War. He was eventually killed near the end of the war by Paris – unskilled and cowardly – by an arrow shot into his heel, hence the use of the term “Achilles heel” to describe a person’s weak spot. Achilles the warrior lent his name to the strongest ligament of the body – the achilles tendon – found at the back of the heel. Although it is the largest and strongest of the ligaments, it is also the most susceptible to injury.
The tendon is formed by the joining of 3 muscles in the calf and can receive loads of up to 8 times the body weight. The blood supply is typically poor to it’s mid-section which is where most people will have problems.
There are many causes of Achilles pain, all of which increase the load on the tendon such as increased physical activity, running up hills or on uneven surfaces, jumping or bouncing activities, increase in mileage and interval training.
Some people will be more susceptible to achilles injuries due to the structure and function of their feet. Others will increase their risk by wearing worn shoes: another reason to heed the warning from last month’s newsletter!
Signs and symptoms include pain and stiffness along the achilles upon movement and following periods of rest (especially first thing in the morning). In chronic cases, there may be pain throughout the day whenever weight bearing.
Short-term treatment for Achilles pain includes RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation). It is important to assess your preceding activities and footwear to determine whether the injury was caused by physical activity, lower limb biomechanics, poor choice of shoes or perhaps a combination.
A podiatrist will be able to give you advice on footwear and reducing your activities as well as assess your gait for possible biomechanical contributing factors. They can also refer you for further treatment if necessary.
It is important to seek professional help if your symptoms persist because chronic achilles tendonosis can lead to a partial or full rupture of the tendon requiring surgery and immobility casting for weeks.
If you think you might be suffering with achilles issues, call the clinic today so we can get you back on the road to recovery!