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Heel good factors: How to prevent Achilles tendon rupture
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Heel good factors: How to prevent Achilles tendon rupture

Though it is the thickest tendon in the body, the Achilles tendon is susceptible to rupture both in physically active and inactive individuals
It is important to recognize and avoid potential risk factors that can lead to an Achilles tendon rupture.
Achilles tendon rupture can occur in both physically active and inactive individuals. (Photo by Anantha Subramanyam K/Happiest Health)

The ankle joint plays a pivotal role in providing stability during activities such as running, walking, cycling and jumping. The muscles and tendons in and around the ankle actively participate and bear the stress generated during any form of physical activity or sport. The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. As it bears a huge load, it is also prone to injuries.

Dr PS Jaya Prasad, senior orthopedic at Kamineni Hospitals, Hyderabad, shares, “The Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone, is essential for various physical activities. Despite its strength, it is susceptible to a rupture, which can affect mobility.” The rupture leads to a decrease in the affected leg’s strength and stability, making weight-bearing difficult. Other adverse effects include an altered walking pattern, a pronounced limp, and a compromised range of motion of the ankle joint. Restricted or compromised ankle mobility hinders activities requiring flexibility and agility.

While elaborating on the classic symptoms of Achilles rupture, Dr Prasad explains, “Recognizing the symptoms is crucial for timely intervention. There is a sudden onset of sharp pain in the back of the ankle or calf. This is often described as a snapping or popping sensation, which is a key indicator. You could also have swelling and difficulty in walking or standing on tiptoes.”

Causes of Achilles tendon rupture

“The common cause for a rupture to the Achilles tendon is a forceful contraction of the calf muscles while the tendon is stretched,” informs Dr Prasad. “This occurs during activities involving sudden acceleration or deceleration. In older adults, degeneration of the tendon may contribute to the vulnerability. In younger people, traumatic incidents like sports-related injuries could be the cause.”

The issue is not restricted solely to those involved in sports or recreational activities — even those with sedentary lifestyles are prone to it.  

Treatment of Achilles tendon rupture

The treatment for the rupture varies depending on the severity of the injury. Non-surgical options involve immobilization through casting or bracing so that gradual healing can take place. Other non-surgical treatments focus on rebuilding strength and flexibility through physiotherapy sessions. It is essential to address mobility issues and facilitate a comprehensive recovery.

In severe cases when conservative treatments fail, surgical intervention is recommended to reattach the torn tendon. However, physical rehabilitation is integral to both surgical and non-surgical options.

Achilles tendon rupture prevention

“To reduce the risk of Achilles tendon rupture, people irrespective of age and activity level should incorporate preventive measures into their daily routines,” says Dr Prasad. “Appropriate warm-up and stretching before engaging in physical activity is crucial for tendon flexibility. Wearing appropriate footwear with arch support helps. One should also incorporate strengthening exercises targeting the calf muscles and Achilles tendon in the exercise routine.” In other words, people should ensure gradual progression in their activity levels and avoid overexertion and possible injuries. 

Besides, those who have weakened tendons because of age or certain diseases should take proactive steps for tendon health. Ascertaining the medical condition and being involved in moderate physical activity along with a balanced nutritious diet, rest, and avoiding overuse of the tendons is important.

Takeaways

  • Though it is the thickest tendon in the body, the Achilles tendon is susceptible to rupture both in physically active and inactive individuals.
  • It is important to recognize and avoid potential risk factors that can lead to a rupture. The factors hold irrespective of age, fitness levels and the level and intensity of physical activity.
  • Preventive activities include wearing appropriate footwear with arch support while engaging in physical activities and sticking to proper warm-up and cool-down routines.

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