WHAT IS THE ACHILLES TENDON?
The medical term for your heel cord is the Achilles tendon. It is a fibrous, strong tissue band that connects the muscles in your calf to your heel. There are two muscles in the back of your lower leg. When these two muscles contract or tighten, they pull on your Achilles tendon. This causes your foot to point downward and lets you stand up on your toes. These are the strong muscles that help you climb, sprint, and jump.
ACHILLES TENDONITIS AND ACHILLES TENDINOSIS CAUSES
There are typically two problems that cause Achilles tendon pain: Achilles tendinosis and Achilles tendonitis.
Achilles tendonitis and the Achilles tendon pain that accompanies it occurs when the Achilles becomes inflamed. Achilles tendon pain is usually acute or short-lived. If it does not resolve, it can result or progress into Achilles tendonitis, which is a progressive degenerative of the tendon. In this condition, the Achilles tendon becomes weak and loses its structure. It easily tears. Sometimes this can happen where the tendon attaches to the heel. Rarely, the tendon can rupture. Rupture can or may not be associated with Achilles tendon pain.
Bursae are little sacs filled with fluid found in various places throughout the body that decrease the amount of friction between parts that move against each other. Bursitis is a condition that occurs when one of these little sacs becomes irritated and inflamed. Bursitis can cause Achilles tendon pain when the bursa behind the heel bone becomes inflamed. This condition is called tendocalcaneal bursitis.
ACHILLES TENDON RUPTURE
Sometimes, Achilles tendon pain can be caused by a ruptured tendon caused by strain. This can happen when a person who is not used to vigorous exercise places too much force on the tendon, and it tears. In some cases, a ruptured Achilles tendon can be preceded by tendonitis, which makes the tendon more susceptible to injury.
- OCCURRENCE IN THE UNITED STATES. In the United States, Achilles tendon pain is thought to be increasing. Approximately 10% more of the people in the US are now involved in some form of running for recreation or in other pivoting or jumping activities than in prior generations. No data is available to describe the prevalence or incidence of Achilles tendon pain, but we do know it affects from 7-18% of people who run in athletic clubs.
- SEX- AND AGE-RELATED DEMOGRAPHICS. Achilles tendon pain and injuries are more common in men than in women, possibly due to men’s participation in specific sports activities. Achilles tendon pain is most common in recreational athletes who are from 30-50 years old. Many people of this age challenge themselves with activities that involve high force, but they are only sporadically active. This predisposes them to Achilles tendonosis.