Your feet and ankles play a crucial supporting role in everyday life. They take on enormous amounts of stress every time you get up and move around. This is especially true if you live an active lifestyle, like an athlete or a dancer does.
Staying active is important for your health and well-being. But with activity comes the risk of injury. If you’ve been noticing pain in one of your ankles, you may be thinking it’s just a sprain. Sometimes, though, it can be more sinister. That’s why the health care professionals at North Central Texas Foot & Ankle, with offices in Roanoke and Decatur, Texas, want you to be able to recognize the difference between a simple sprain and a problem with your Achilles tendon.
All about the Achilles tendon
At the back of your ankle sits the largest tendon in the human body – the Achilles tendon. It’s what connects your calf muscle to your foot via your heel bone. This fibrous band of tissue has a hand in your ability to stand, walk, run, jump, and remain balanced. It’s safe to say that much of your mobility is due to a healthy Achilles tendon.
Anyone can sustain an Achilles tendon injury, but for people who are very active, like runners, dancers, and athletes, the risk of injury is much more likely. This is because sudden starting, stopping, and pivoting puts extra stress on your Achilles, causing damage over time. If that damage is ignored or mistaken for something else, the tendon may rupture.
Types of Achilles tendon injuries
There are two types of Achilles tendon injuries, each with its own causes and risk factors: tendonitis, which has two subcategories, and rupture. If an injury is noticed in its early stages, tendonitis can be treated, and rupture can likely be avoided. The two subcategories of tendonitis are:
Non-insertional Achilles tendonitis
This type of tendonitis tends to occur in younger, active adults. The middle fibers of the tendon begin to break down as a result of repetitive stress on the area, and pain and swelling result.
Insertional Achilles tendonitis
This type of tendonitis affects the lower portion of your heel, where the tendon connects to your heel bone. When damage occurs to that area, you may notice pain and/or hardening of the tendon. This can be a result of having flat feet, wearing high heels, or your leg muscles being too tight. Bone spurs often appear with this injury. It can happen at any age, regardless of activity level.
If tendonitis isn’t diagnosed and treated in a timely manner, your tendon may rupture. This is when your Achilles tendon tears, often accompanied by a snapping sound. The pain is immediate, and you likely won’t be able to put pressure on the affected foot. Should rupture occur, you should seek medical attention right away.
Diagnosis and treatment
Symptoms of an Achilles tendon injury may come in the form of pain, swelling, and/or stiffness around your ankle or heel. For this reason, this type of injury is often mistaken for an ankle sprain – especially if it has not ruptured. When you come into one of North Central Texas Foot & Ankle’s offices, you’re given a physical examination by one of our expert podiatrists. This may include X-rays and/or MRIs to determine the type and extent of your injury.
Once your injury is diagnosed, Samantha Childers, DPM, or Ricky Childers, DPM, puts together a treatment plan that reduces pain and promotes healing. Conservative treatments are typically recommended at first. These can include:
- Anti-inflammatory medicine
- Corticosteroid injections
- Icing the area
- Physical therapy
- Regenerative medicine
If these methods are unsuccessful, or if rupture has occurred, surgery to repair the tendon may be the next step.
No matter what your injury may be, our team at North Central Texas Foot & Ankle is here to help. Don’t wait until your ankle pain becomes unbearable. Give our Decatur or Roanoke, Texas, office a call or request an appointment online today.