An Achilles Heel is a metaphor often used to describe a person’s weakest point, however it is often not as feeble and delicate as it is made to sound.
What exactly is an Achilles Heel?
Your Achilles Heel is a tough band of tendon that connects your calf muscle to your heel. It is quite thick, and can be seen running up the back of most people’s ankles. You may hear it referred to as the Calcaneal Tendon, and its primary purpose is to allow for movement through your ankle.
Why its reputation if it’s so tough and thick?
The Achilles is the largest tendon in the body, and unfortunately this means damaging it causes a great deal of pain and difficulty in movement – some have described it on a similar level as a gunshot wound! It gets its name from the popular Greek myth of Achilles who’s only vulnerability was his heel.
What kind of injuries are common for Achilles Heel?
Patients who visit us as Progressive Sports and Spinal Physiotherapy usually present with inflammation due to over-use, or post-surgery to repair a tear or rupture. Sports and activities that involve a lot of up-hill, down-hill and excessive running or jumping movements have a greater risk of experiencing issues with their Achilles.
What symptoms should I look for?
The most obvious symptoms for an injury or stress on the Achilles Heel are pain, inflammation and/or difficulty moving. In many cases, taking the time to rest is essential in allowing the body to “do its thing and repair”. The use of ice can support with inflammation and with advice from your GP, anti-inflammatory medication can also be an option. It is important to understand that due to tendons not receiving a large amount of blood flow, that their healing time is significantly longer than your general bruise or pulled muscle. Seeking support from your physiotherapist in this time is crucial in ensuring your body recovers to its full capacity again without incurring further damage.
How can I prevent an Achilles Heel injury?
1. Listen to your body! Pain, discomfort, swelling and difficulty moving are your body’s ways of telling you that something isn’t quite right. It is so important for you to listen to your body and give it the time it needs to recover. Stretching is vital to ensure your calf muscles are able to use your Achilles properly, excessive strain causes tears (and the other type of tears too!).
- Focus on technique, and use training sessions to build strength and stretch. Your body will be able to adapt to the demands of whatever sport you do as long as you take the time to train. Minimising time on hard surfaces can also help to lower the force/demand on your body.
- Physiotherapy massage, exercises and rehabilitation strategies being added to your regime is only going to improve your strength, technique, endurance and ability to prevent injuries.